Men’s basketball begins NEC play

Nick Buzzelli, Staff Writer

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  The Robert Morris men’s basketball squad hit the ground running by winning four of its first six games and matching the best start in program history at the start of the 2011-2012 campaign. Although the team plays a tough non-conference schedule, the most difficult trials are ahead in Northeast Conference play. 

  “The NEC is a good conference but our non-conference games are definitely going to be better,” explained freshman Darren Washington. “Whether we win or lose, if we just compete in the non-conference games it will help us down the stretch of the season.”

  This season Robert Morris participates in two consecutive Northeast Conference games before continuing the non-conference schedule. Robert Morris hosts Fairleigh Dickinson University on Thursday December 1, and Monmouth University on Saturday, December 3, at the Sewall Center before finishing its non-conference games against rival Duquesne and the top-ranked Memphis Tigers.

  “When we recruit kids we tell them that they will have an opportunity to play against the best and that’s what we’ve done with our non-conference schedule,” stated second year head coach Andrew Toole. “It will test us and hopefully prepare us for Northeast Conference play.”  

  This season, RMU competed against a number of top schools from various conferences around the country, including games against Penn, La Salle, James Madison, and Pitt in the 2011 Philly Hoop Group Classic.

  According to Toole, these non-conference games against bigger programs will ultimately help the Colonials perform better during the stretch of the season. “It will allow us to understand what we need to improve upon, where our weaknesses might lie, and what our strengths will be. Coming out of it, we will have a real good feel of who we are and what we need to become.”

  The majority of Robert Morris’s NEC contests begin in early January, when the team plays three consecutive conference opponents and concludes with the Northeast Conference tournament in March.

  Although the Colonials were picked to finish second in the conference by NEC coaches, it will not be an easy task for Robert Morris. Three of the twelve schools that represent the NEC are within the points per game leaders in the nation, including Long Island University, who dealt RMU an 85-82 loss in last year’s championship contest.

  Every NEC team dreams of having an opportunity to win a conference championship and compete in the NCAA tournament and Washington, a native of Belleville, Michigan, hopes the Colonials can do just that.

  “Our number one goal is to sustain effort and win the NEC title,“ added the 6-9 forward. “Making the tournament brings spirit to the school and unites everyone.”

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