Robert Morris coach back at scene of prime
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For Robert Morris coach Andy Toole, the matchup tonight against Penn might have a familiar feel and might be completely foreign at the same time.
Strange? Not for Toole. The Colonials (2-0) travel to Philadelphia to take on his alma mater Penn (2-1) in the 2011 Hoop Group Classic. It will be the first time he has coached against the Quakers since graduating in '03.
Toole was a co-captain for Penn his senior year and in his two years as a starter ('02,'03), the Quakers made the NCAA tournament while posting a 47-13 record.
In '07, Toole's first year at Robert Morris, the Colonials played in the same event at the Palestra, but did not face the Quakers.
- Matchup: Robert Morris (2-0) vs. Penn (2-1), 7 p.m. today, The Palestra, Philadelphia.
- Radio, Internet: WPIT-AM (730), rmucolonials.com.
- Robert Morris: 2-0 for the first time since 2007-08 and 10th time in history. ... Shot 61.9 percent in the second half of a 69-52 win Nov. 17 against St. Peter's. ... Has forced 41 turnovers, including 23 steals, in its first two games. ... Redshirt junior Velton Jones has played in 69 consecutive games for the Colonials, with 54 starts in a row.
- Penn: Beat Rider, 78-72, in overtime Nov. 17. ... Sophomore Miles Cartwright scored 28 against the Broncs and averages 13 points per game. ... Senior Zack Rosen leads the Quakers with 24 points per game. ... Averaging 6.3 three-pointers per game.
- Hidden stat: Robert Morris' 83-57 win against Rider and 69-52 win against St. Peter's mark the first time the Colonials have held consecutive opponents under 60 points to open the season.
"You spend so much time at a place, you have a great relationship with a place, you feel that place has given you a lot to kind of be where you are. Now, to go and try and beat them is a little bit interesting," Toole said.
The Colonials will be looking to continue their hot start. Season-opening wins against Rider and St. Peter's have them 2-0 for the first time since '07.
Redshirt sophomore Coron Williams leads the team with 20.5 points per game, including a career-high 28 against Rider. Redshirt junior Velton Jones has added 14.5 points and 6 assists per game and has scored in double digits in eight consecutive games, dating to last season.
The biggest key in the first two wins, though, has been the play of the freshmen. After struggling in a close exhibition win against Wheeling Jesuit, the rookies delivered when it mattered against the Broncs and Peacocks.
Freshman Lucky Jones leads the Colonials with nine rebounds per game and Keith Armstrong chipped in seven boards against Rider.
While freshmen can take time to adjust to the speed of Division I basketball on the offensive end, Toole said he wanted them to focus on aspects of the game they can control.
"They've tried to do what we ask of them defensively," Toole said. "We as a staff and the upperclassmen just said to them, 'Listen, what you've got to do is play as hard as you can, try and defend like crazy, make all the effort plays you can and then your offense will come.' "
That focus will be crucial against the Quakers, who rely on taking advantage of other teams' mistakes. Toole said it was critical that the freshmen maintain their defensive intensity.
"When you least expect it, that's when someone's going to make a cut or set a screen or find themselves open for a shot," he said. "You've really got to be on your toes at all times to defend them well."
After facing Penn, Robert Morris continues play in the Hoop Group Classic with a game Nov. 22 at James Madison and Nov. 25 against La Salle back in Philadelphia.
The Colonials finish the event with a game Nov. 27 against Pitt at the Petersen Events Center.
First Published November 19, 2011 12:00 am