RMU head coach Andy Toole spent his 500th game on the sideline Wednesday when the Colonials hosted West Virginia Wesleyan at the UPMC Events Center.
Knowing a big matchup with the Dayton Flyers was on the horizon, it was great to see RMU come out with some fire and confidence early, starting the game with a 15-5 run. Big part of that early storms as Josh Corbin hitting three shots from beyond the arch in the first three minutes of the game. You counter with the offensive punch, Robert Morris was able to really frustrate the Bobcats early and often, topped off with Enoch Cheeks drawing an offensive foul which showed their frustration. This was maybe the most confident I have see this team look on both ends of the floor, turning great defense into an explosion on the offensive end.
Towards the back end of the first half, RMU turned would turn a 12-3 run into a 21-3 run building their lead up 28 and would end the half with an eye popping 60-21 lead. RMU would hold the Bobcats to 29% from the field and would pour in 66% respectively.
Second half opened in a very similar way to the first half, with Robert Morris going on a 18-7 run, where they would crack the 100 point mark with Sven minutes left in the game. Knowing the opponent that was just days a way, it was great for the Colonials to “boat race” a team that they should, winning 111-56. RMU would tie the program high in points, which felt like a decent way to honor your head coach on a special night.
Now, moving on from a game where you should win to a game you will be vastly tested, RMU headed to the “lovely” state of Ohio to face the Dayton Flyers. Before I get started on the game and the frustration of the Robert Morris offense, I need to speak briefly on the atmosphere. Having never attended a game at the University of Dayton Arena, I knew nothing of how awesome that building was. The pregame atmosphere for a 1pm tip just days away from Thanksgiving break, the fans brought it, the students, my goodness. I would have given ANYTHING for RMU to have a home court atmosphere of this nature when I attended. I thought the energy could be kind of off with an earlier tip than normal, but the energy was in the building, too bad it did not translate much to the floor.
Know, I am not bashing the Colonials or Flyers, but the game just seemed kind of “blah” at times. Dayton just seemed to miss so many shots around the rim and Robert Morris just seemed to miss from well, everywhere. At one point in the first half, the Colonials were shooting a hair under 19%, but only found themselves down seven. Sitting there with my dad and two-year old son, I just glared off for a second thinking, “how angry does Dayton need to be right, only up seven with RMU missing nearly everything”.
One positive for Robert Morris, or maybe a bigger negative for Dayton, was the fact the game never really got away from RMU. Despite the poor shooting, RMU was able to head to the break only down nine, trailing 30-21 making only eight shots from the field. Shooting that poorly (Dayton only shooting 40% themselves) and being down single digits had to give the Colonials hope they could pull this one out.
Starting the second half, Robert Morris was able to trim the lead quickly down to five and that was when you could sense some angst in the building. Flyer students had about ENOUGH of RMU hanging around, you could sense the Colonials were one big shot away from this game swinging in a major way.
Dayton again struggled big time on the offensive end this half, again only making twelve shots from the field and two from three point land, but Robert Morris really struggled as well. You could see the frustration growing on the RMU sideline as the Colonials would make unforced error after unforced error, not capitalizing an ounce on any Flyer turnover or mistake.
The final media time out came with 3:59 left, with the Colonials facing a seven point deficit and would have the ball coming out. Here was their chance to really make the Flyers press, one big shot was all they needed to but some fear into the building.
Well, Corbin launched up a three pointer that was off the mark and once it drew iron, you just felt that was it as RMU would get another stop, but then an unforced turnover by Michael Green III. Robert Morris was able to hold down the fort and not allow Dayton to pull away much at all, keeping them within arms reach for majority of the game. Dayton, coming off a 24-turnover loss to UNLV would only shoot 42% from the field with eleven turnovers, seemingly keeping this a game throughout.
It was one of the best atmospheres I have been around in college basketball, the game was a close battle all afternoon, just would have been cooler had the play by both teams matched the energy.
Losing 60-51, RMU now heads to Savannah, GA for the Hostilo Hoops Community Classic November 25-27 and will play three games in three days. Can they build off some positives from the Dayton loss and turn them into something that gets them going come Horizon League play?
Big shoutout to the great fans sitting around myself and family, my two-year old had an absolute blast and the Dayton Fans really helped make it a fun afternoon for him. If you ever are in the area and want some entertainment, grab a ticket to a Flyers game, you won’t be disappointed.