The Robert Morris Men’s basketball team took on The Ohio State Buckeyes on Friday night. It was the Colonials first official game of the 2017-2018 season. For the Colonials, eleven freshman/transfers made their debuts with the team. It was a sour debut for them as the team fell to the Buckeyes by a score of 95-64.
The game started strong for the Colonials, as Robert Morris jumped out to a 6-2 lead led by two three-pointers by Senior Matty McConnell. That would be the last lead of the night for the Colonials, however, as the Buckeyes would go on a 23-5 scoring run to take a 25-11 lead.
“Obviously Ohio State started to build a lead and unfortunately we reverted a little bit to trying to make a home run play, trying to make that eight-point or nine-point play, and those things just don’t happen,” said Robert Morris men’s basketball head coach Andy Toole.
The half would end with a 46-26 OSU lead.
In the first half, 24 of the first 26 points for Robert Morris were scored by either Matty McConnell or Koby Thomas. In fact, the first basket scored by a Colonial other than those two was by Ronnie Gombe, who scored with 0:49 left in the half.
The team shot 9-33 in the half overall but shot 42% (5-12) from the three-point range. Matty McConnell was 4-6 overall and 3-4 from the three-point line.
Down 20, the Colonials entered the second half looking to spread the ball out more and try to get back into the game. Unfortunately for Robert Morris, Ohio State would prove to be too much to handle.
Out of the gate, Ohio State would put in two quick baskets to continue to pull away from RMU.
Robert Morris would then score, making it 50-26, and the teams would trade shots until OSU would go on a 15-5 scoring run to make it a 30 point game a 73-43.
Matty McConnell would not give up though, as he quickly scored five points on two consecutive plays. Those five points would give McConnell 20 on the day.
Freshman Koby Thomas would then follow McConnell’s effort and also eclipse the 20 point mark in his first start of his RMU career. At this point, the score was 75-50 and those two had 40 the team’s 50 points.
With five minutes left, Robert Morris would begin to look towards their bench as coach Toole would take out both of his 20 point scores. The team was down 82-54 at the time.
“It’s a learning process for our guys and I was proud of the way we fought in the second half,” said Coach Toole, “I felt that we kind of battled a little bit and had little more possessions that resembled the team that we hope to be. I think we kind of just got a little worn out as a couple guys weren’t ready for this kind of an environment in their first college game.”
The fans would begin to clear out following a media timeout with 3:29 left in the Game. Robert Morris was down 29 at this point, 86-57.
Matty McConnell would come back in as he attempted to eclipse his career high (23) in points. As the game ticked away in the final seconds, he would fall three points short of his career high.
Robert Morris would end up losing the game by the score of 95-64.
RMU Head Coach Andy Toole said after the game, “Unfortunately we did our best to kick the Chris Holtmann era off in a positive direction. Obviously, size was a factor, the backboards were a factor. I felt that our guys, coming out of the gates were a little bit wide-eyed and a little bit overwhelmed.”
Colonial freshman Koby Thomas would end up being the leading scorer for both teams as he finished with 22 points in his debut. He would also end up with six rebounds and two steals in the game.
“I thought Koby was really well locked in,” said Coach Toole, “in shootaround today and in practice yesterday. I think he is a competitor and a guy who loves game day. I loved this activity and I loved his aggressiveness. He is really one of our guys who is communicating and trying to do the things that we need him to do. Obviously, at times he was facing bigger and stronger guys. And Koby is a guy, who had 22 (points) and 6 (rebounds) in just thirty minutes, I feel can give more because he is that talented and that gifted. We’re going to watch some things that he can improve on, but I felt it was a pretty impressive performance and a confident performance gave that he is a freshman.”
Matty McConnell would be the only other player to eclipse the 20 point mark in the game for both teams.
Going forward, Coach Toole is hoping that the scoring output from the rest of the team will improve as two players for the Colonials combined to score 42 of their 64 points.
“Dachon (Burke) obviously didn’t play he’s a guy we believe that can score. Leondre (Washington) I think can make some more shots. Sometimes at this level, the last thing that comes is shot making. I think that more guys will be able to score and more guys will understand the speed to score at in order to be successful. I think we’ll develop that as the year goes on.”
As for the absence of Dachon Burke, the news sounded positive after the game.
“He had a lower-body injury and we were hoping he’d be able to get out there. He had a little bit of a setback this week. I just didn’t feel like he was 100%. I want him to get to that 100% so that it’s not something that lingers throughout the course of the year.
We’re hopeful that a couple more days of rest will get him back by Monday against Grand Canyon.”
The Colonials (0-1) next two games will be in the Grand Canyon Classic in Phoenix, Arizona. Their first home game will not be until December 6th as they take on Rider University at PPG Paints Arena in downtown Pittsburgh.