Robert Morris shoots down Rockets in CIT
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Chants of "defense" accompanied by obligatory hand clapping erupted Saturday shortly after the tipoff at Savage Arena.
That wouldn't be noteworthy except for who was doing it.
Not University of Toledo's fans.
Not Robert Morris' smattering of fans, although their vocals could be heard in the background.
The chorus rang, believe it or not, from the players, coaches, athletic trainers, and whoever else scored a seat on the Robert Morris bench.
A tad silly, perhaps, but it was all part of the Colonials' effort to supply their own energy in a second-round game in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. On the other hand, Toledo was lifeless and sputtered to the finish line of the season in a 69-51 loss.
Lethargy, wretched shooting, and a worthy opponent all led to the resurging Rockets reaching the end of the road before a crowd of 1,321.
"Tonight wasn't our night," Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk said. "I thought we played tired, played a step slow from start to finish, and truly had our worst game of the year against a tough and physical Robert Morris team."
In that same breath, Kowalczyk said he didn't want this effort to diminish the season as a whole. Although Toledo (19-17) failed to notch its 20th win, a 15-game turnaround from Kowlaczyk's first season left the program in good shape for the future. No players graduate, and it stands to reason the Rockets will enter the 2012-13 campaign among the favorites in the Mid-American Conference.
But against the Colonials (26-10), they quite literally couldn't make a shot early on, missing the first 16 attempts from the field. When Richard Wonnell snapped the drought with a putback at 8:18, Toledo trailed, 18-5.
Visions of the Rockets producing a comeback similar to their win against Ohio in February, when they erased a 15-0 deficit, never materialized. Trimming the deficit to eight in the second half was as close as the Rockets got.
"I think we wanted to start the game with great energy," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. "I thought they got some good looks early that we were fortunate they missed, and that kind of snowballed for us."
None of the Colonials logged more than 25 minutes, contributing to their sustained energy. Conversely, Toledo looked like a team playing its 36th game without having the luxury of significant depth.
"Was it fatigue? Was it heat? Kowalczyk said.
"There's no one who's going to answer that question. How do you know?"
A 19-point setback to Temple in December was the only home loss of the year worse than this one. The Rockets' 35 percent field-goal shooting was better than only the 30 percent in the January loss at Eastern Michigan.
Rian Pearson, who led Toledo with 14 points, didn't make his first basket until the 3:22 mark of the first half. No other Rockets scored in double figure.
Four Colonials had at least 10 points, led by Coron Williams who made four of his team's 10 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.
"I'm not trying to be disrespectful to them; they're a great basketball team," Kowalczyk said. "[Today], it was about us. We didn't play like we [usually] do."
First Published March 18, 2012 12:00 am