The Sentry

Breaking down RMU basketball’s first conference loss of the season

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For the first time this season, the Colonials lost to a conference opponent. Saint Francis Red Flash defeated RMU 89-80 in what was a one-sided affair for much of the game. There’s a lot to dissect from this game, despite the Colonials losing.

The first thought has to be, what good can one take away from this loss?

There’s a lot of good that can be taken away from this. First and foremost, Matty McConnell said it in the postgame presser: the loss was early. It’s better to lose early than late, and now the team has good film to use to show how to improve. This game can be taken as a wake-up call.

Robert Morris is an extremely talented team, but they can’t go into every conference game thinking that they will come away with an easy victory. That is especially true against teams like St. Francis and Wagner. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes a loss is just what a team needs to regroup.

The whole team didn’t struggle in this one, though, as Dachon Burke (21) and Koby Thomas (20) would both end up with another 20-point contest to add to their impressive seasons. Thomas would even end up with 10 rebounds, giving him another double-double on the year. Both of those two shot 50 percent overall and were big in giving the Colonials a chance towards the end of the game.

Furthermore, the team came back to give St. Francis a game towards the end. The Red Flash came out of the gate, shooting 56.3 percent overall and 40 percent from the three-point line to give them a 52-37 lead at the end of the first.

Robert Morris would go into the second down 15 and would trail in double digits for majority of the second. Towards the end though, the Colonials would pull within seven and have enough momentum to comeback. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t connect on any of their attempted three pointers.

That type of comeback showed great resilience in Robert Morris. A lot of teams down 15 going into the first half would have quit, but not the Colonials. In fact, Robert Morris would outscore St. Francis 43-37 in the second. They would also play much better defensively, as St. Francis’ shooting percentage dropped almost 16 points from the first (56.3 percent) to the second (40.6 percent) half.

Robert Morris would also out rebound St. Francis 41-33. This also included 18 offensive rebounds, seven of those by star player Koby Thomas.

Those are some great things to take away from this game. Robert Morris displayed a never-give-up attitude and was able to play solid defense down the stretch. While the first half showed what a good team like St. Francis can do to an effortless Robert Morris, the second half showed that Robert Morris can beat the best of the NEC. They were able to out-rebound their opponent, again, and played much better shot defense.

That being said, it wouldn’t be a full breakdown without talking about the bad, and the first half of this game was not one for the highlights for Robert Morris.

While the defense was strong in the second half, it was very weak in the first half. Robert Morris allowed their opponent to shoot over 50 percent. The Colonials also only generated 11 turnovers. St. Francis is a strong team that doesn’t turn the ball over often, but the Colonials defense, both the good (second half) and the bad (first half), is the biggest takeaway from this one.

But there’s more takeaways than that as the Colonials shot an abysmal 28.1 percent from the three point line. Now, 28.1 percent isn’t bad when you shoot 46.2 percent overall, and put up 80 points for that matter. That being said, Robert Morris values three-point shooting as a major strength. They forced too many three pointers to try to keep pace with St. Francis. A bigger worry is that the star players for Robert Morris were not immune to this struggle. Matty McConnell went 0-4 from the three-point line, he’s now made just one three-pointer in his last 22 attempted, and Dachon Burke was 2-8. Burke still managed to have a solid game, but those two, as well as Koby Thomas, are the key to this team. They won’t win if two of those three aren’t at the top of their game.

Mental miscues were also at the forefront of this loss. The team had two technicals called against them for saying things they shouldn’t have — one on Andy Toole after he argued a foul call and the other on Leondre Washington. The team also looked visibly flustered on the court and butted heads. This was an issue that was expected with so many new players, but I don’t think this is something that will continue.

This is the first conference loss of the season. If there would be a game where the team would get frustrated, it would be that first conference loss. Coach Andy Toole, as well as leaders Matty McConnell and Dachon Burke, have done a phenomenal job at keeping this team together. RMU has played unselfish ball all season long, and the frustration noticed in the St. Francis loss shouldn’t be a continuing issue.

Despite all this, no one can sum up the game better than the coach himself, Andy Toole, who said, “Our defense did not stand up to the challenge that they showed us. Some of our worst came out, some of those details that you need to slow a really good offense like Saint Francis. We found ourselves in a big hole and trying to fight back, and we were unable to do so.”

Robert Morris struggled in their game against St. Francis, but there’s still a lot of good to take away from this. There’s a reason this team is still at the top of the NEC. While the defensive issues need to be addressed, this team is clearly still one of the best in the conference. This loss could be a positive for RMU, as now they have a lot of game film to go over to find and fix their weaknesses.

 

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