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January 10, 2013Tweet Follow @achiappazzi
All week long, Andrew Toole hammered home the point that Robert Morris wins by playing stifling defense. All week long, Toole drilled his players into remembering that the success the program has had in recent years was by being a team opponents hated to play.
For one night, consider that message received.
Robert Morris locked down Fairleigh Dickinson and then lit up the scoreboard behind Coron Williams 27-points as the Colonials defeated FDU 88-54 on the road in Teaneck, New Jersey.
"We were successful, for the most part, in that formula we use to defend. Now we have to continue to do it," Toole said on his post-game radio show. "It's obviously a step in the right direction after putting ourselves in the hole that we've put ourselves in."
The blowout win snapped a three-game losing streak for RMU and helped them avoid their first 0-3 start in the Northeast Conference in 17 years. Williams had a game-high 27, but it was a balanced effort, as Robert Morris had four others in double figures. Russell Johnson had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists, while freshman Stephan Hawkins had a career high 12 points. Mike McFadden also had 12, while Anthony Myers-Pate chipped in 10 points.
Essentially, everyone pitched in, whether it was defense or sharing the ball on offense. FDU shot 40.4 percent from the field and RMU out-rebounded the Knights 41-28. The Colonials also dished out 22 assists to just nine turnovers.
"I thought everybody's attention and thought was exactly that tonight," Toole said. "I think that's what we have to do to be a good team."
Williams, of course, was the centerpiece. He hit two three-pointers early and had 15 points at the half as RMU raced out to a 44-25 halftime lead. The Colonials didn't look back, stretching their lead above 30 once midway through the second half before finally pulling out to the 34-point difference.
Williams was 9-of-12 from the floor and 8-of-10 from beyond the arc, finishing just one point shy of his career high. He also picked up four rebounds and played solid defense.
"He always has the green light. He shoots at such a high percentage, and when he gets it going and gets in rhythm like good shooters do, he's hard to stop," Toole said. "I was very happy with the way he came out aggressive and hunted shots."
Johnson, meanwhile, played his best game of the season. Bogged down with injuries and focus issues all season, he broke out after Toole hounded him all week in practice.
"Russell made some simple plays and played within himself. If we move the ball like we did tonight, he's going to find to open shots," Toole said. "There are so many other ways he can help our team and help us be successful. It's crazy, whether it's just using his length, his knowledge, his energy, his ability to rebound the ball - all those things he's capable of bringing every night. And we need him to play that way, at least with that energy, in order for us to become the team that we want to become."
Another player who impacted the game without scoring was Velton Jones. The senior point guard scored just five points on 1-of-8 shooting, but he dished out a career high 11 assists and led the defensive effort with 3 steals.
"We always talk about taking what the defense gives us. Velton was getting great opportunities to penetrate," Toole said. "They were rotating and really trying to defend him, and he was finding his open teammates and trusting his teammates."
Even a shortened bench came up big. Robert Morris played without Lucky Jones, who was serving a suspension for a violation of team rules. Toole indicated on his pregame show that it was a moment for Jones to absorb a lesson and that it would last for one game. Robert Morris also played without Vaughn Morgan, and the school confirmed afterward that the junior college transfer had quit the team.
With just three healthy subs, RMU needed quality minutes. Myers-Pate had 10 points and four rebounds, while Hawkins had his best game of his young career. He had five rebounds to go along with his 12 points in 16 minutes.
"I think the thing with Hawk is the game has to slow down for him," Toole said. "If you worry about the important things, which is rebounding, defending, playing hard with energy, the other things will happen for you."
Focusing on those important things were what Toole stressed to his entire team all week. For one night, they remembered how to do it.
Robert Morris will look to improve to 2-2 in the NEC when it travels to Monmouth on Saturday.
Officials: Joe DeMayo, Brandon Cruz, Scott Rosenbaum
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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