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January 5, 2013
RMU falls again at home
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Over the last half decade, Robert Morris has broken multiple program records.
Saturday night, the Colonials set one they'd like to give back. Mired in a defensive slump not seen in the Mike Rice/Andrew Toole era, Robert Morris fell to Central Connecticut State 77-70. In the process, Robert Morris dropped to 0-2 in the Northeast Conference.
It's the first time in program history that Robert Morris has started 0-2 at home in NEC play. It's the first time since 2004-2005 that the Colonials have lost back-to-back league games at home, and it's the first 0-2 start in NEC play in any fashion since 2006-2007.
"I have to figure out a way to get us to defend, to get us to rebound, to make us tougher mentally, physically," head coach Andrew Toole said. "We've got some weaknesses and we have to address those things as soon as humanly possible."
Once again, it was Robert Morris' defense that failed. Just 48 hours after giving up 84 points to Bryant, CCSU scored 77 thanks in large part to Kyle Vinales. One of the nation's top scorers, Vinales got hot early and never cooled off, scoring 34 points - including a couple contested shots that served as back breakers in the second half.
"Our defense sucks right now," Velton Jones said. "If we could have just gotten some stops and got a couple key rebounds, maybe we could have won the game. That was the same thing Thursday. We have to find a way to start playing some defense."
CCSU started off shooting the basketball well, building a 38-33 halftime lead. It was the exact opposite of the kind of start Toole and Robert Morris wanted after the debacle at Bryant. With Vinales on track, he started hitting contested shots in the second half as Robert Morris tried to crawl back in front.
"That's what he does. He takes and makes difficult shots," Karvel Anderson said. "The only thing we can do is play the best defense we can on him and contest it. We did that at times and he still made it."
Down 51-40, Robert Morris went on a 9-0 spurt and eventually took a 54-53 lead with 11:08 to go. Vinales hit a jumper and Terrell Allen got a dunk on a dish from Vinales. It was the last time Robert Morris led in the game.
"We got back into the game and a couple plays where we're down two, we'd have unforced turnovers," Jones said. "It was just us not mentally being ready."
The theme repeated. Jones hit two free throws to make it 70-67 with 2:41 left, Vinales canned a jump shot. Anderson hit a runner in the lane to make it 72-70 with 54 seconds left, and Robert Morris forced Vinales to pick up his dribble. He still found Matt Hunter, who slipped through the defense to bank a short shot in.
"We got beat time and time again off the bounce, on straight line drives. It's simple stuff. At some point in time it becomes a personal pride issue," Toole said. "We were late on everything. We're late on closeouts, we're late jumping to the ball, we're late on positioning, we're late on ball pressure. Guys go wherever they want."
Jones led Robert Morris with 22 points, his second straight 20-plus point performance. But Toole said his defensive performance Thursday might have been the worst he's ever seen. Anderson chipped in 15 points, but the offense isn't Toole's concern. It's how his team figures out how to play defense again while in a hole they haven't been in during RMU's recent success.
"Can you say rock bottom?" Toole said. "Maybe that's what you need to hit. Maybe you need to hit rock bottom. It's like an addict that's got to hit rock bottom before they realize there's a problem. We have some dudes addicted to laziness. We have some dudes that are addicted to excuse making, finger pointing."
Robert Morris will try to right the ship in New Jersey, with games against Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth. Only one thing will likely be on their minds.
"If we don't defend, we're not going to win," Jones said. "Point blank, period."
Officials: Frank Scagliotta, Charles Robinson, Rod Mrakovich
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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