Colonials rebound from blowout; outlast winless Jaguars

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The Robert Morris University Colonial men’s basketball team took one on the chin last Thursday, falling to the Youngstown State Penguins 78-56 but were able to bounce back Monday, outlasting IUPUI 77-70. At the UPMC Events Center.

It is pretty clear this season who makes RMU go, but against teams of this caliber, Robert Morris needs help from their supporting cast. Enoch Cheeks tossed in 16 points, but only one other Colonial tallied double figures; Kahliel Spear held to just eight. RMU ended the game making only one of 10 attempts from three, while allowing YSU to knock down nine of their 20.

The turnover bug, one that has bitten the Colonials quite often the last few seasons, was prevalent yet again. RMU would turn it over 15 times to only five for the Penguins. At halftime, the Colonials faced only a four point deficit, trailing 29-25, but everyone knows what YSU is about, and they showcased that in the last 20 minutes running off 49 points to pull away with the 22-point victory.

How would Robert Morris bounce back from a lackluster second against Youngstown State? Facing the IUPUI Jaguars, who came into the contest winless in the Horizon League, RMU had to force their hand and not let this one even become a contest. If Robert Morris has magical March dreams, tonight was a night they had to gain some confidence and show they aren’t to be talked about with the basement dwellers in this league.

RMU would come out with terrific energy on the offensive end, terrific ball movement and communication, all things that seemed to lack against YSU. The Colonials would come out knocking down 60% from the field in the fist half, and would end the half with a 44-29 lead. This one seemed and felt just about over, until RMU decided to sleepwalk to open the second half.

Facing a winless team in your league, you can’t leave any doubt that you’re better than they are, the longer you let them hang around, the more trouble you are going to find yourself in. The Jaguars would have to climb out a gigantic whole without Jlynn Counter for a good portion Monday night, but Robert Morris was unable to assert their dominance for a full 40 minutes.

IUPUI was able to tie the game on a few occasions in the second half, one coming late with 4:26 left tying the game at 61. Junior Matt Mayers would answer with a bucket in the lane, but the Jaguars would strike yet again when Chris Osten answered with a basket of his own.

In tight games down the stretch, typically your best players shine, and Cheeks did just that. With the game tied late, he knocked down a massive three to kickstart an 8-1 run that would finally put an end to the relentlessness of IUPUI.

RMU saw 4 players score in double figures, lead by Spear and his game-high 22, followed by Cheeks and Corbin with 16 and Michael Green III with a double double on 12 points and 11 helpers.

The Colonials were VERY fortunate to survive this one and will have to be a lot better, a lot cleaner on both ends of the floor going forward. RMU begins a long four-game road trip starting Thursday when they head to Rochester, MI to face Oakland.

It is mid-January now, it is about “go time” and Robert Morris has to take it up a notch. They obviously had the right person at the helm, do they finally have the right group to go to the next level?

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