The Robert Morris Colonials spent years dominating the Northeast Conference in various sports, specially men’s basketball. Finally, in 2020-21, they took a big jump to a bigger, more competitive Horizon League. The first year really was a learning experience, they took their lumps but sadly, that kind of rolled into year two. This is year three for RMU and head coach Andy Toole and its time; time to make that jump.
Robert Morris has struggled often this season in closing out games, mainly falling to pieces the last five or so minutes of games. Seven times this season, RMU has lost a game by single digits and in about all of them, they held a lead at some point the latter part of the second half. After a blowout win at Green Bay, these next four games are maybe the most important games of the Colonial basketball program yet.
Facing four straight at home after what had to feel like months on the road, RMU would look for some revenge when they hosted Detroit Mercy and then Oakland.
Robert Morris is a team that has mostly been carried by two players: Enoch Cheeks and Kahliel Spear. But this week, it was Spear who did the majority of the heavy lifting. Again, these first two games of the four game home stand are about as close to “must win” games as you will find in January. I would argue these are more “must win” games for the psyche of RMU more than anything; they have to prove to themselves they belong here. Watching on TV, it feels at times you can simply see the lack of confidence in their body language and at times, it is hard to watch.
This is a time when you need your best players to be just that, your best players and boy, did Spear put on a show for those at the UPMC Events Center. Facing the Titans and Antoine Davis, who is a thorn to more than just Robert Morris , Spear lead the Colonials with 25 points on 10/14 shooting, going 5/5 from the stripe, which is an area he’s known to struggle. RMU allowed Davis to get his, scoring a game-high 29 points, but Spear had a supporting cast not named Cheeks for once, but Josh Corbin decided to join the party.
Corbin contributed with 20 points, going 6/12 from three while Cheeks (#cheeksforweeks!) tossed in 11 points to go with his eight helpers. Finally, Robert Morris was able to put away a close game, turning their six point advantage with 1:14 left into a 85-77 victory. That’s count two wins in a row, moving RMU to one game under .500 in league play.
Sunday, Robert Morris hosted Oakland, where they yet again looked to avenge an earlier season loss. Afternoon starts can be funky energy wise, you never know what the building will be like, how the players will react. However, this Sunday was going to be special and you could feel that from the go. Yes, the start was not exactly picture perfect, but the legend that is Spear just kept growing.
Spear would join the 1,000-point, 500-assist club on Sunday, when he scored a game and career-high 30 points while also collected 11 boards, becoming only the 15th member in RMU history, and it took just about all 30 for the Colonials to squeak out a massive, 68-63 victory. Jalen Moore was able to keep the Golden Grizzlies afloat all afternoon, scoring a team high 24 points, but it was a day to relish for Spear.
Spear kept the energy up for Robert Morris, throwing down a few monstrous dunks helping keep “uncle Mo” on the Colonials’ side. This game just felt different, it was another tight game late where RMU just seemed to be unable to put away Oakland, allowing them to have a good look at the gun to tie, but it feel short off the rim.
Going from three straight losses to now three just wins, Robert Morris is tied for the longest current winning streak in the league and after the game, you just kind of felt the relief. This was a massive game, pulling RMU to 6-6 in league play and only 1 game back of the Grizz, now 7-5 after splitting the season series.
Two games down, two more massive ones to go. It is Year 3 in the Horizon League, the Colonials aren’t the “new guy” any more. It’s time they show, and play, like they belong; because quite frankly they do!
They don’t make them like Spear very often, RMU has to capitalize off his talent and make a run. These two games hopefully can spring board that three game winning streak into a deep end of winter run. Robert Morris has the talent in some important areas, now its time they let that talent take over and get out of their own way.
The Colonials will now host Northern Kentucky, and yet again, they look to avenge an earlier season loss, and then Wright State, who they beat in December handily.
The most important game for RMU from here on out is the next one, will they build off this or will it be more of the “hot and cold” Colonials we have seen since 2020?