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November 14, 2013
Slow start to second half dooms RMU
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Basketball is a game of runs. Even the worst team in Division I will rattle off a string of points against the top team in the land.
The sport is ultimately about responding to an opponent's run properly, about cutting it off short and finding ways to score even when the rim seems to be the size of a thimble.
Robert Morris couldn't do that for a long stretch in the middle of its game Thursday night against Eastern Michigan, and though the Colonials mounted a rally, it was too little, too late. Eastern Michigan handed Robert Morris its first loss of the season with a 69-64 setback in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
"When we watch the film our guys are going to kick themselves a little bit because there was opportunity to be had and we didn't take advantage of it," head coach Andrew Toole said on his post-game radio show.
Robert Morris led for much of the first half, even leading by as many as 11 points midway through, before the wheels started to come off. From the 5:38 mark of the first half to the 10:22 mark of the second half, Robert Morris scored just 10 points and the lead swung from a 27-19 RMU advantage to a 44-37 edge for EMU.
"I think we stopped moving. We kind of got stagnant, and sometimes when you play against the zone, that's what you do," Toole said. "We didn't have as much activity. We didn't have as much motion. We didn't have as much cutting. We didn't have as much dribble penetration. So, we struggled."
With their shots not falling, Robert Morris also fell behind in a few other areas. Eastern Michigan grabbed key rebounds in the process of holding a 49-38 edge on the glass, and the Eagles also blocked 13 shots. Eastern Michigan also took 42 trips to the free throw line, sinking 28 of those free throws.
"It was some poor execution that allowed them some runouts, some inability to have good transition defense," Toole said. "Even our own mental approach tonight was different than it was Tuesday night. We have to figure out why that was and how we can get it corrected for Sunday."
Despite the offensive woes to start the second half, Robert Morris kept Eastern Michigan close. The Eagles never got ahead by more than a couple possessions, and RMU made a run in the final five minutes thanks to key baskets from Lucky Jones and Karvel Anderson.
Jones' 3-pointer with 25 seconds left made it 66-64 Eastern Michigan, but Karrington Ward made three of his final four free throws to ice it. Jones finished with a season-high 18 points and eight rebounds, while Anderson had 13 points and Mike McFadden chipped in 11.
"Lucky was great. He was very active. I thought Mike was good," Toole said. "We just didn't have enough guys who were doing what we needed them to do."
For the third straight game, Anderson was quiet in the first half before turning it on late. Eastern Michigan hounded him all night, and Toole said his senior guard's struggles led to some mistakes elsewhere on the floor.
"He's the first one to say it in the locker room that he needed to be better from the tip," Toole said. "I have no doubt in my mind that he will evaluate whatever he needs to evaluate and come out going forward."
Outside of eight points and seven rebounds from freshman forward Jeremiah Worthem, Toole was also unsatisfied with his bench's production. They provided 13 points but little else on the stat sheet, and Toole said RMU needs more, beginning with Sunday's game at Kentucky.
"If we expect our depth to be one of our strengths, we have to have everyone flying around and producing," Toole said.
Robert Morris (2-1) will tip off against Kentucky in the next part of the Keightley Classic at 7 p.m. Sunday evening on ESPN2.
Officials: Mike Mitts, Rob Snedden, Todd Sweeney
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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