I am not sure there are words ugly enough to sum up the first 20 minutes of the game between RMU and Youngstown State on Wednesday evening, but here goes nothing.
Rahseem Dunn, the Catalyst for Robert Morris, returned after being in COVID protocol, so one would think that would spark something, right? WRONG! The first half may have been the ugliest 20 minutes of NCAA Division I basketball I have put my eyes on in quite some time. Now, in fairness, the environment at the UPMC Events Center was less than rocking Wednesday, with RMU students still off campus due to holiday break and had that midweek snooze feel to it.
Robert Morris came out of the gates with really poor shot selection and just absolutely refused to do any work on the glass, which YSU was sort of able to take advantage of. It seemed on offense, RMU was squeezing the ball, trying to do too much instead of letting the game come to them. There was zero flow to the game early on, neither offense was doing anything but throwing up brick after brick.
Youngstown State, as I said, was not exactly setting the world on fire the first 20 minutes, shooting 27% while RMU ended the first half shooting a whopping 34%; yes, those are FACTS. Dunn, who Robert Morris relies a lot on, scored five points off 2-of-11 shooting in the first half, with RMU somehow only trailing 27-25. YSU was able to out rebound Robert Morris 2-to-1 in the first half, with RMU only grabbing one offensive rebound. Both teams combined for only 11 assists but 21 turnovers in the first half; YUCK.
Yes, they actually let this game continue for another 20 minutes, which may have surprised many. BUT, the second half got off to a wild start when it seems neither team could miss for about 5 minutes, with RMU scoring on 4 straight trips up the floor. Only scoring 25 points in the first 20 minutes, Robert Morris tallied 13 by the first media timeout in the second half. Enoch Cheeks was the do it all man for RMU Wednesday night, scoring 12 points off 5 of 8 shooting, but grabbing 10 boards helping pace Robert Morris until Dunn broke out of his funk.
What really put a pin the RMU victory balloon was their poor three point shooting, going a eye popping 2 of 20 for the game, going 1 of 8 in the final 20 minutes. With 5 minutes left, Robert Morris was facing a 2 point deficit, but that is where things always seem to go south for the Colonials, and did again last evening. Robert Morris has let many winnable games get away from them in the last 5 minutes over the years, but with a big stop down 4 with 2:30 left, it looked like maybe this time things would be different. Following the stop, RMU’s next offensive trip down the floor was an empty one, which was then followed by a big block by Kahliel Spear; Robert Morris could not grab the loose ball.
It was curtains for the Colonials after that, losing 64-60 to the Penguins in a game that was there for the taking with YSU playing poorly; too bad RMU tried to one up them in that area.
Robert continues this five game homestand Friday when they welcome Cleveland State to the UPMC Events Center in Moon Township. The road is only going to get tougher from here, Andy Toole will be paying close attention to effort and who will fight through this rough road and who won’t.