Man, just when you think the Colonials finally turned a corner as a program in the Horizon League, they fall right back into old, bad habits.
Closing out games has been one of the biggest weaknesses of RMU over the last few seasons and the ugly horse just keeps rearing its head this season. Robert Morris was looking to end their four game home stand with a clean sweeps of victories and by all accounts, had every chance to do so, but failed in, well typical Colonial fashion.
Poor shot selection, defense, free throw shooting and quite frankly, maturity cost RMU this past week as they dropped back to back contest to Northern Kentucky and Wright State. Robert Morris first welcomed NKU to the UPMC Events Center looking to avenge their four point loss in December to the Norse.
Turnovers bit the Colonials last contest when they turned the basketball over sixteen times, and they would somehow top that mark on Thursday with NINETEEN (!). Khaliel Spear came into this week as the reigning Horizon League Player of the week with his masterful performance last week and would yet again be a star. One of the other major issues RMU has faced this season was the lack of scoring outside of Spear and Cheeks, who yet again would score 37 of 52 Colonial points, with no other player scoring in double figures.
Northern Kentucky, lead by Marques Warrick, who torched Robert Morris for 21 points in 33 minutes of action, yet again just simply found a way late to pull away from RMU. The Colonials would erase the five point half time deficit and pull even with the Norse with 8:40 remaining on a big Enoch Cheeks dunk (this is typically around the time things tend to go bad for RMU).
The Colonials, like they have done oh so many times, fell apart late in the second half allowing a 17-2 run and allow NKU to run away with this one 65-52. Yes, Northern Kentucky is one of the best teams in the league, but RMU was again, right there at arms length and as they just seem to keep doing, failing to get out of their own way.
Robert Morris was hoping to hold off Wright State when the Raiders came to town, closing out the Colonials’ four-game home stand. The Raiders, who absolutely were boat-raced by RMU, 80-59 on December 1st, came looking for some payback.
Trey Calvin and Brandon Noel, thorns in the side of many this season, torched Robert Morris for a combined 34 points and Noel collection fifteen boards. The Colonials, finding themselves down 41-34 at halftime, yet again raced back from as much as fourteen down at one point to pull ahead late 64-60.
With 6:26 remaining, and RMU up 2 would this finally be a time where they could close out a game? After a clutch deep three by Calvin and Wright State up 66-64, Andrew Welage would foul Spear. One strength of Andy Toole teams of the past had been their free throw shoot and well, this might be one of the weakest ones of the Toole era. Spear, missing the front end of the one and one just kind of felt like a dagger, specially when WSU would run off four straight to build their lead and do so for good, to 70-64.
The Colonials did seem to have one last chance late when Cheeks drove in, and honestly took one of the worst shots I have seen him take, forcing a bad shot, trying to draw a foul. There would be no whistle on the play and the RMU bench, coaching staff and seemed like the five on the floor simply lost their composure for a bout fifteen seconds and it cost them. The Raiders would run down the floor, hit a big bucket and that would put a nail in the coffin.
When will things change, when will they learn? The lack of discipline, composure and straight maturity just keeps costing the Colonials down the stretch. It is February, not November; maturity and composure should have been instilled by now. This isn’t the first time this has happened and I’m going to guess, it won’t be the last but it needs to be.
Enough is enough already, frustration is growing among RMU supporters and it is noticed on social media. Many are growing tired of the same act, same issues causing the same results. Robert Morris will not move on from Toole any time soon, nor should they. But what can be done to stop the same nonsense from killing the Colonials late?
Things are not going to get any easier this week as RMU heads to the “mistake by the lake” to face Cleveland State, then its off the Purdue Fort Wayne who will surely be looking for revenge. Calendar is inching closer and closer to March, and the Colonials are inching close and closer to a team that wont be around to see it.