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January 3, 2013
Colonials stumble in NEC opener
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These are not your older brother's Bryant Bulldogs.
If Robert Morris didn't understand that concept prior to Thursday's Northeast Conference opener, they do now.
Bryant - fresh off an upset win over Lehigh - proved that prior performances mean nothing in determining how this year's NEC standings will shake out. Bryant got 29 points from Dyami Starks and 26 points from Frankie Dobbs as the Bulldogs knocked off Robert Morris 84-77 at the Sewall Center.
"They played a terrific game and we played a poor game," head coach Andrew Toole said. "We're not winning any game in the 80s."
From the opening minutes, Bryant came out firing. Dobbs and Starks bombed away from beyond the arc while Alex Francis worked away to try and soften Robert Morris inside. Francis ended up 18 points, but his work enabled Dobbs and Starks to have freedom outside. In the first half, Bryant made ten shots from the field; eight of them were 3-pointers.
"We were fortunate to be down one point at the half, to be honest with you. Starks gets three open threes in the first two possessions," Toole said. "They walked into wide open threes without hands in their face. What are they going to do, pass them up?"
Robert Morris spent much of the game looking like it was trying to shake off 13 days of rust. The Colonials hadn't played since their five-point loss to Arkansas on December 20, but Toole said the culprits at hand for Thursday's loss were the same ones that have cropped up in the past.
"I'm not surprised at it because I watch it in practice too often," Toole said. "Because we have some good players and we have some guys who can make shots, we've won some games. But certainly, our mentality in terms of defense and attention to detail defensively and holding each other accountable is really far and wide."
Robert Morris did try to rally several times, even taking the lead at points in the second half. Down by 10 with about 10 minutes to go, Robert Morris slipped into a 4-guard lineup to promote speed and extra hands in passing lanes. It worked, as Robert Morris tied it at 51 with 7:44 to go thanks in large part to Karvel Anderson's eight straight points. But Robert Morris quickly cooled off again as Bryant pulled back in front.
"I don't think we played a good team game offensively or defensively," Anderson said. "When you try to win a game as individuals, especially at this level, it's hard to do. That brings a lot of inconsistency and that's what happened tonight."
The Bulldogs sank 5-of-6 shots from the charity stripe and got a bucket from Francis before Robert Morris could score again. A 3-pointer from Anderson cut the deficit to 62-60 with 4:02 to go, only for Starks to hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
"Our effort wasn't consistent. We kept taking breaks, and they capitalized on them," Anthony Myers-Pate said.
From there, Robert Morris traded offensive possessions for fouls. First, the Colonials tried to trap or force a turnover in the backcourt, then they looked for a quick foul to get the ball back. Robert Morris whittled away at the lead, pulling with 3-points with 20 seconds left, but Bryant was too strong from the free throw line. Bryant went 13-of-14 at the line in the final 1:38 and Robert Morris couldn't force enough turnovers to complete the comeback.
It was a performance that left the Colonials disconsolate and Toole dismayed.
"I've told our team since the Arkansas game, the greatest strides that we can possibly make are mental," Toole said. "What are we going to do? Are we going to get in better shape? Are we suddenly going to improve some skill level in the next eight weeks of the season? No. It's a mental focus. It's a sustained effort. It's mental consistency. It's understand that it's important to do things a certain way if you're going to be successful, and we try to skirt that as much as we can."
Velton Jones led Robert Morris with 24 points (17 in the second half), 6 assists, and 6 steals. Anderson and Lucky Jones had 13 points each and Robert Morris shot 43.8 percent from the field. It was the defense and mental approach that had Toole upset afterward.
"I'm sure if you asked them, nobody was at fault for tonight's game. It was the guy next to them, or the other guy didn't rotate, or the ref was mean, or the other team actually wanted to win the game. Could you believe that? What jerks they are, they actually wanted to win," Toole said. "They were 2-28 last year, just got ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 for the first time in program history in Division I, Frankie Dobbs was national mid-major player of the week according to CollegeInsider.com, they got three guys that combine to average 45 of their 66 and tonight those guys killed us."
"Those three guys - 29, 26, and 18. I was a poli sci major, I wasn't in the Wharton School (of Business at Penn) so I don't know math, but that's a lot of points," Toole said. "We let those three guys single-handedly beat us. That's just not caring. That's not buying in."
Robert Morris will host Central Connecticut State, which lost to St. Francis (Pa.) Thursday night, on Saturday. Toole is hoping the light goes on quickly.
"Until you get tired of it as an individual, your behavior usually doesn't change," Toole said. "We have some guys I just scratch my head at. It's like the definition of insanity, continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result. We have some of that going on."
Officials: Donny Etpley, Larry Scirotto, Scott Young
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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