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October 28, 2013

RMU overcomes hiccups in exhibition win

Every team shows some warts in an exhibition game in college basketball. The very nature of the contest exists as a learning experience for players new to the college game or new to the roles they'll have that season.

Andy Toole anticipated some sluggishness and miscues from his Robert Morris squad against California (Pa.) Monday night, and indeed, his Colonials slogged their way to a 64-58 win. Robert Morris introduced six new players into the fold against the Vulcans, and that was obvious at times as RMU struggled with communication and execution.

"I'm thankful that we were able to come out with a victory and this will be an invaluable amount of film we can watch and hopefully continue to grab guys' attention about what you have to do in order to be successful at the Division I level," Toole said. "With six new guys, I thought some of them did well and some didn't do as well. There's certain things I liked that we did and a lot we have to get better at."

Two of those newcomers made significant contributions down the stretch. Freshman forward Jeremiah Worthem hit a handful of clutch free throws while pulling down several key rebounds, and freshman point guard Kavon Stewart helped ice the game with a couple of rebounds and free throws himself.

Worthem had 10 rebounds to go with five points in his collegiate debut.

"He's a tough, aggressive dude," Toole said. "I think it's pretty obvious that he's a talented kid who has really good instincts for the game. It's just going to be how conditioned is he, how well does he understand the details."

Stewart chipped in ten points, as did junior college transfer Desjuan Newton. Senior forward Mike McFadden led the way with 18 points and five rebounds.

"I was always able to shoot, but I didn't have confidence in it until this year. It's a different approach," McFadden said. "A lot of teams understand I'm more of a finisher than a shooter, so I'm trying to add more to my offensive game."

Toole added that McFadden is likely going to play a larger role within the framework of Robert Morris' offense this year after not being a primary option his first two years.

"We want to have some more flow to what we're doing offensively where we can move him around a little more and he can use his quickness and athleticism to go by some guys that are maybe bigger or slower," Toole said.

Cal held an early lead until Robert Morris was able to close the gap at halftime. The Colonials continued to struggle in the second half, as the offense turned the ball over 16 times and made just 40 percent of its shots. Robert Morris held Cal to 36.8 percent shooting, but left sharpshooter Jake Jakubec open enough to keep the game interesting until the final minutes.

"I thought we had good energy. It was just the small, detailed things that we go over in practice that we didn't convert over to the game," senior guard Anthony Myers-Pate said. "Both older guys and new guys. We didn't mesh well and communicate."

All 12 scholarship players on the roster played in the first half, but Toole shortened the bench some in the second half. Freshman Britton Lee, junior college transfer Charles Oliver and junior David Appolon played sparingly throughout the game, while sophomore junior college transfer Aaron Tate saw fewer minutes in the second half after opening the game as a starter.

"What I told most of the guys in the locker room is, if you didn't like the minutes or the role that you had, sometimes that's what you deserve," Toole said. "Look at how you're approaching every day in practice and look at the knowledge you have of what we're trying to do and trying to execute, and maybe try to figure out where you can act differently or act accordingly."

Robert Morris opens the season Saturday, November 9 against Savannah State.

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

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