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November 15, 2011
Game day: RMU at St. Peter's
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Anyone expecting a rematch of last year's season opening 55-30 win over St. Peter's when the Colonials travel to Jersey City to take on the Peacocks is in for a surprise.
St. Peter's graduated a large chunk of its roster, giving John Dunne the opportunity to overhaul the team.
Of the eight players who played significant minutes in the game last year, just three are back for St. Peter's and played in the season opener. One additional one, Darius Conley, is currently suspended.
So this is not the team that Robert Morris held to a record low but then rallied to finish 20-14 and make an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Dunne's infused the lineup with several transfers and freshmen, and while it may take the Peacocks some time to gel, MAAC coaches have them picked in the top half of the conference. Considering the favorite rarely wins in that conference - much like the NEC - that would mean Dunne's group has a shot at the tournament again.
With just two seniors, though, it's a young and inexperienced group. St. Peter's hung tough with a decent Buffalo team on Friday on the road, and it was a couple of the new faces that helped them overcome a slow start to salvage a 72-65 loss.
Junior guard Chris Prescott, a transfer from St. Joseph's, scored 23 points and was the lynch-pin of the offense. Forward Karee Ferguson, a junior college transfer, was the team's best inside presence, scoring 10 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
But that match-up could be the key for Robert Morris Tuesday night. St. Peter's played a relatively small lineup against Buffalo, and there's no indication that forward Darius Conley will return for the game while sitting out a team-instituted suspension.
Robert Morris matches up well at guard, so the key could be the length on the wing with Russell Johnson and Lucky Jones and if Lijah Thompson can join Keith Armstrong in having dominant games inside. Thompson has the opportunity to thrive this year, but he needs to get started early, and a game like this with no obvious inside threat (unlike Rider) is an excellent opportunity for him to get going.
The other key for the Colonials will be adjusting to life on the road. This is the first of five games on the road, although one is in the relatively familiar confines of the Peterson Events Center in downtown Pittsburgh against Pitt. But for the freshmen, this is a whole new experience. How they handle traveling and getting into a rhythm in a foreign environment will be big. As Andrew Toole has mentioned, how the freshmen perform day-in and day-out, game-in and game-out will have a major input in how well this team does this year.
They passed their first test Friday night. Now they'll get their next one in Jersey City.
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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