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December 4, 2013
RMU drops fourth straight for 1st time since 2004-05
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Robert Morris entered its game against Youngstown State Wednesday night needing a tourniquet to staunch the bleeding caused by a porous defense.
It left the game against the Penguins in uncharted territory.
Youngstown State took advantage of the leaky defense to grab an 84-76 win over Robert Morris. The loss extended RMU's skid to a fourth game, the longest losing streak at RMU since the 2004-05 season. It also put Robert Morris three games under .500 for the first time since February 5, 2011, during Andrew Toole's first season.
Toole knew it'd be hard back then, especially with a team with just one senior and one junior. He knew there would be bumps again this year with six newcomers to the roster. But the way RMU is losing bothers him more than the actual losses.
"It's more of the same," Toole said on his post-game radio show. "I don't know what it's going to take for us to understand how important defending is."
Just like the previous three games on what turned out to be an 0-4 road trip, Robert Morris started off strong offensively. The Colonials led for the first ten minutes of the first half until Youngstown State began to capitalize on Robert Morris fouls, turnovers and missed assignments. Youngstown State took a 44-39 lead into the half, and slowly built on it in the second half.
The Penguins shot 52.5 percent from the floor and nailed several wide-open 3-pointers to help extend runs or stymie Robert Morris comebacks. By the 10 minute mark of the second half, the Penguins were up by double-digits and the hole was too big for Robert Morris.
"Maybe I'm not selling how important it is well enough, maybe I'm not explaining it well enough, maybe I'm not communicating it well enough," Toole said. "We have so many guys who play ten minutes and they break down the entire ten minutes of their game. And then they get upset when they come out."
Toole played 11 players in the first half but shortened the bench as the game went on, leaning on his five starters while spotting his reserves in for just brief stretches to provide the likes of Karvel Anderson, Mike McFadden, Lucky Jones, Anthony Myers-Pate and Jeremiah Worthem a rest.
"Your job is to make sure that whatever is going on in the game, you bring energy. You fly around," Toole said of his bench. "You make effort plays. You provide a spark. That's what guys have to do and we don't have guys doing that."
Robert Morris made the final stretch interesting, closing the gap to as a few as six points with 1:03 left. But Youngstown State played keep-away and held on for the win.
The defensive woes masked a strong offensive game for Robert Morris. The Colonials shot 50 percent, including 16-of-20 from the foul line, and out-rebounded Youngstown State 36-25. Jones had a career-high 24 points plus eight rebounds, while Anderson had 18 points and seven rebounds. Worthem chipped in 12 points and McFadden 10.
But Toole's concern hasn't been with his team's ability to score. It's his team's inability to defend that's keeping him up at night.
"We're looking for all strategies and any way," Toole said. "It's hard to put your better defenders out there when night to night you don't know who your better defenders are going to be."
Robert Morris returns home for a tussle against 7-0 Toledo on Saturday.
Officials: Joe DeRosa, Kevin Williams, Kelly Pfeifer
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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