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February 2, 2013

Game Day: RMU at LIU-Brooklyn

Thursday night served as a harsh reminder for Robert Morris. As efficient as the offense has been all year - and especially during the Colonials' six-game win streak throughout the middle of January - Robert Morris won't get anywhere without quality defense.

The 71-61 loss to St. Francis-Brooklyn was a perfect example. With Velton Jones out early with a shoulder injury, the RMU offense was average at best. The defense was worse, and though the Colonials had a shot to rally, they couldn't string together enough stops.

Game 22: St. Francis-Brooklyn
WHEN: February 2, 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: WRAC in Brooklyn, N.Y.
TV/RADIO: Live on ESPNU TV, WPIT 730 AM/WPITAM.com (RMU Radio)
YAHOO! SPORTS RPI RANKINGS: LIU-Brooklyn 221, Robert Morris 154
KENPOM RANKINGS: LIU-Brooklyn 211, Robert Morris 166
PROJECTED LIU-BROOKLYN STARTERS: F Kenny Onyechi (6'7, 230, Sr.), F Jamal Olasewere (6'7, 215, Sr.), G Brandon Thompson (6'1, 185, Sr.), G C.J. Garner (5'10, 160, RSr.), G Jason Brickman (6'0, 165, Jr.)
PROJECTED ROBERT MORRIS STARTERS: F Mike McFadden (6'8, 220, Jr.), F Russell Johnson (6'6, 180, RSr.), G Karvel Anderson ( G Coron Williams 6'2, 170, RJr.), G Velton Jones (6'0, 170, RSr.)

But if Thursday's performance wasn't enough to convince Robert Morris that the Colonials will only get emerge from the pack in the NEC by playing stronger defense, all Andy Toole should have to do to hammer it home is play footage of the last five games between Robert Morris and LIU Brooklyn.

Robert Morris is 2-3, with two high profile losses in the last two NEC championship games, in those five meetings. In the three wins for LIU, the Blackbirds have shot 49 percent from the floor, averaged 34 trips to the free throw line, and forced 28 Robert Morris fouls.

In the two wins for Robert Morris, LIU has shot 42 percent from the floor, averaged 25 trips to the free throw line, and forced 22.5 Robert Morris fouls.

Robert Morris has also been efficient offensively in those games, shooting around 45 percent and making their way to the free throw line. Controlling the game has been crucial for Robert Morris as well. In four of the five games, RMU had the lead at halftime. The one game they didn't was last year in the NEC final, which LIU won 90-73. In the other two losses, something else collapsed in Robert Morris' defensive effort. In the 85-82 overtime loss in 2011 in the NEC final, it was the foul trouble. In a regular season loss earlier that year, it was offensive efficiency as LIU shot over 50 percent and scored 52 points in the second half.

In the two wins, Robert Morris held LIU Brooklyn below 30 points in the first half. Though the Blackbirds rebounded in each to post better offensive performances in the second half, the lead and Robert Morris' ability to keep LIU at arm's length proved to be enough.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Robert Morris also received strong performances in those games from Velton Jones. In the two wins, Jones averaged 21.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.5 turnovers per contest. In the losses, Jones averaged 14.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 3 turnovers per contest.

One man shouldn't mean the difference. LIU, after all, will be without Julian Boyd, who has tortured RMU in the past. Whether Jones can or can't play shouldn't determine a Robert Morris win or loss. The only determining factor should be the one that will hold true for all of February: If Robert Morris plays intense, smart defense and limits mistakes, the odds of winning any game in the NEC have to be in their favor.

If they don't, it may not matter how effective the offense is.

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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