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November 12, 2012Tweet Follow @achiappazzi
Robert Morris didn't let C.J. McCollum torch them, but the Colonials couldn't do much else against Lehigh.
McCollum had a respectable 19 points as Lehigh's defense did most of the talking, holding RMU to 33.9 percent shooting in an 89-60 win over Robert Morris at the Petersen Events Center as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Lehigh will take on Pitt in the regional championship Tuesday night while Robert Morris will play Fordham.
"We're not as sharp as we need to be offensively or defensively because we got a late start on the season. Everyone else has been practicing for a while, and we've had some inconsistencies in terms of our practice, in terms of our attitude, in terms of injuries, in terms of a lot of things," head coach Andrew Toole said. "We haven't had sustained effort. Tonight, I felt like our effort was where it needed to be, but now we need to add detail to that."
Robert Morris started off well, feeding the ball down low to Mike McFadden and Vaughn Morgan. But as the Colonials stepped further away from the basket, the shots began falling less and less. Robert Morris was a paltry 18.2 percent from beyond the arc, making just 4-of-22 three-pointers. The inconsistency on offense was compounded by 21 turnovers as Robert Morris made too many self-inflicted errors.
"Some of them are just brain-dead, not being strong with the ball," Toole said. "It's like shooting yourself in the foot....Maybe instead of cutting it to eight, they increase it to 13 and it just deflates you a little bit."
Those turnovers quickly led to Lehigh points, as the Mountain Hawks scored 25 points off RMU mistakes. Though McCollum had just 19, four other Lehigh players were in double figures, including 15 points for Mackey McKnight and a handful of 3-pointers for Stefan Cvrkalj.
"When it's a simple scouting report that you know that Stefan Cvrkalj is a catch-and-shoot and you have to close out hard and not let him make threes, and he does and gets three in the first half and is their leading scorer in the first half, that really hurts your chances of winning," Toole said. "Those are things where if we sharp for an extended period previous, we would clean those things up."
No one was immune from Robert Morris' offensive woes. Normally strong shooters Karvel Anderson and Coron Williams were a combined 3-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. Velton Jones was a paltry 3-of-10, Lucky Jones 2-of-8, and Anthony Myers-Pate just 3-of-9.
"C-Ron, Karvel, they had good looks and they came up short," Toole said. "All of a sudden, they make a couple of those shots and maybe it's a little bit different going into the half."
Two individual bright spots came from the play of McFadden and Morgan. McFadden scored 13 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, sparking RMU early. Though Morgan picked up five fouls, he also had 12 points, five rebounds, and five blocks in 23 minutes. Toole saw positives, but also saw some of the hurdles Morgan still needs to overcome.
"We're looking for him to be aggressive," Toole said. "I think he adds an element of someone who can always go to the glass and keep a play alive. Now he has to tighten up defensively a little bit."
Even with back-to-back 20-point losses to start the season, Toole expressed confidence that he has something to work with moving forward.
"I liked the mentality of our team tonight. I liked that they stayed together. I liked that they continued to fight," Toole said. "I didn't like them Friday because we tried to do it all by ourselves. Tonight we tried to do it as a team and if we continue to do it as a team, we have a chance."
Toole said he's already seen the early losses have an impact on his team.
"We lost by 29 points but I think I got my team back tonight," Toole said. "As much as you beat the drum that it's not last year and it's not going to be easy, it's not going to be roll-out and here comes big bad Robert Morris and people are just going to cower, you have to go out and earn it this year. I think the message is starting to set in."
Officials: Gene Steratore, Chris Beaver, Wally Rutecki
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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