Lucky Jones’ clutch three-pointer carried Robert Morris to a gritty road victory over St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday evening. The win brings the Colonials into a three-way tie with the Terriers and Bryant — who lost at home to Sacred Heart.
Neither team played their best offensive game and the entire contest was riddled with fouls, but RMU’s victory splits the season series, with each team winning on the opposition’s home court just more than a week apart. Here are thoughts from the game:
1) Robert Morris was ready for St. Francis Brooklyn’s small lineup. During the game in Moon Township the Terriers were able to make their second half comeback by deploying a three-guard lineup with Brent Jones, Glenn Sanabria, and Tyreek Jewell all on the court. Glenn Braica went back to that lineup again at home, but Andy Toole had an excellent counter — a bigger lineup with Rodney Pryor at the small forward position. While the three-guard lineup did manage to improve SFC’s offense, the defense couldn’t contain Pryor and it was a net wash, which allowed RMU to keep control during the first half. Pryor scored 12 points in the game, 10 of them during a three-minute stretch in the first half with either Sanabria or Jewell on him.
It was still the right move for Braica. Kevin Douglas is working his way back into game shape after missing more than a month of action and while Lowell Ulmer provided good energy at the “3,” his lack of an outside shot allowed the Colonials to pack in defensively. Playing Sanabria, Jewell, and Brent Jones together gives the offense much better spacing. Jewell played a particularly strong game for the Terriers, he scored 15 points on 6-10 shooting though he was 0-3 from the free throw line. But the free throwing shooting was a team wide issue…
2) St. Francis has to make more free throws. The Terriers have to find a way to hit more free throws. Part of it has to do with who is going to the charity stripe, but part of it is also concentration. Coming into the game NEC opponents were shooting 74.4% from the line against SFC and the Terriers were shooting 63.5%. That didn’t get any better on Saturday as RMU out scored SFC by one from the charity stripe despite attempting four fewer shots. Considering how tight every NEC game is, the Terriers just can’t afford to give points away by missing the ones where no one is guarding them.
3) St. Francis dominated on the glass. It’s amazing to think that the Terriers lost the game despite grabbing 20 offensive rebounds (50% offensive rebound percentage). SFC has more talented big men than any other team on the NEC and it really showed with Stephan Bennett in foul trouble for the Colonials. RMU received some decent minutes from 6’8″ freshman Andre Frederick, but Jalen Cannon grabbed 16 rebounds and scored 21 points as the Terriers out scored the Colonials 32-24 in the paint despite just shooting 37.8% on two-pointers. St. Francis’ depth on the front line is one of the things that makes the Terriers special, but Cannon and Fall were the ones giving Toole’s team problems. Unfortunately Fall missed a critical chance underneath the basket on SFC’s penultimate offensive possession, because otherwise he played an outstanding game on both ends of the court. His quick hands and length bothered the Colonials on the defensive end, but Fall also contributed offensively, with seven points on 1-5 shooting and 5-8 from the free throw line.
Bonus Point: There’s no question in my mind that St. Francis Brooklyn has the most talent in the entire NEC – though RMU is probably closest – but how the Terriers deploy those resources for the next month and a half will determine if Glenn Braica’s team breaks through with its first ever NCAA tournament appearance. My expectation is that we’ll see this game a third time this season – barring another unpredictable upset in the NEC tourney. (Which of course has become the norm recently in the semifinals.)
Milestone Watch (and Brent Jones thoughts): Jones set the SFC all-time record for assists with 535 during the game. His passing has been excellent all season, but Jones needs to be more proactive in trying to take games over on the offensive end. He took one shot in the first half before taking seven in the first four minutes of the second half. It was also Jones who was forced to try and a tough runner down the lane on the Terriers’ final possession. Because he is such a good passer Jones sometimes has a tendency to be a little too passive, but considering he’s looked liked a Player of the Year candidate during the first eight NEC games it’s tough to nitpick. You just get the feeling that this SFC, despite all its talent will go as far as Jones and Cannon carry them.
Milestone Watch (and Andy Toole thoughts): The victory over St. Francis was Toole’s 100th as a Division I head coach in just his fifth season in charge. Toole is an insane 60-19 (76%) against the rest of the NEC. Five years is a good time to start evaluating a program and coach because they’ve been able to bring in a full round of their players. The results show that Toole is one of the best young coaches in Division I. In some ways both he and RMU are benefitting though from never making the NCAA tournament. You have to imagine that if a Toole-coached team had scared a higher seed in March — instead of beating Kentucky and St. John’s in the NIT — that he might not be the head man anymore and the win total might not be so gaudy with a rebuilding project somewhere. Let’s enjoy this experience while it lasts.
2 thoughts on “Many Thoughts: Robert Morris 67, St. Francis Brooklyn 65”
Concerning that 2nd point about the FT issue, the following are games where poor Terrier FT shooting certainly contributed to the loss: a loss by 3 to Army (16-28 ft’s, 57%); a loss by 2 to Norfolk State (16-24, 67%); a loss by 2 to NJIT (19-27, 70%); and now a 2-point loss to RMU (16-28, 57%). That doesn’t count slim Terrier victories where the winning margin shouldn’t have been that close: a win by 2 over Tenn State (an incredible 23-39, 59%); a win by 2 over Sacred Heart (16-24, 67%); and the previous 5-point win over RMU (17-30, 57%). Don’t think that it’s unrealistic to expect a championship team to shoot between 70%-75% on free throws. The Terriers certainly seem geared to take the NEC crown in all areas but foul shooting. If they can somehow get that aspect of their play to an acceptable level, they may just make it.
Congratulations to Brent Jones, obviously one of the best point guards ever to don the Red and Blue!! He continues to open eyes as he has truly blossomed as the complete player. The combination of Jones and Jalen Cannon really gives the Terriers an edge in any game.