RMU drops second in a row
It's been awhile since Robert Morris has started Northeast Conference play with consecutive losses.
But that's where the Colonials (8-7, 0-2) find themselves after falling, 77-70, to Central Connecticut State (4-8, 1-1) on Saturday night at Sewall Center.
It was the Colonials' third consecutive loss and marks the first time in school history they opened conference play 0-2 at home and the first time since 2006-07, Mark Schmidt's final year, they started 0-2.
CCSU sophomore guard Kyle Vinales, the conference's leading scorer, put on a show. He scored a season-high 34 points on various shots, including a couple of clutch baskets when the Colonials were making a comeback.
Central Connecticut State coach Howie Dickenman said he could tell early that Vinales was going to have a good game.
“The first three minutes,” Dickenman said. “When he makes his first couple of shots, he also plays defense. He had been struggling late.”
Dickenman said he was proud how his team responded after losing to St. Francis (Pa.).
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole is perplexed about his team's slump. He made the team watch film into the late night after Thursday's loss to Bryant. He was trying anything to correct the problems and make sure the team got the emotion of being prepared for every game.
Unfortunately, Saturday's game was similar to the previous loss. Robert Morris was fighting from behind for most of the game, and when the Colonials rallied, CCSU responded.
Vinales was 12 of 22 from the field, including 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.
“It was another game where we didn't play defense,” Toole said. “I have to figure out a way to get us to defend, to rebound and make us tougher. Mentally, physically, we've got some weaknesses.
“We have to address those things as soon as possible. It's frustrating.”
Robert Morris used a 7-0 run to grab an early 12-9 lead. But Vinales, who scored 15 in the first half, led the visitors to a 38-33 halftime lead.
Central Connecticut State built a 51-40 lead early in the second half, but the Colonials went on a 14-4 run to take a 54-53 lead with 11:06 left.
But the Colonials couldn't sustain the momentum as Central Connecticut State went on a 10-2 run to go ahead 63-56. Robert Morris never recovered.
“Our defense (stinks) right now,” senior captain Velton Jones said. “We didn't get a couple stops or rebounds. We have to find away to play defense.”
Jones, who scored 22 points with four assists and five turnovers, said things have to change at practice.
“We had too many unforced turnovers, some that they didn't force,” he said. “Just like Thursday, we had mental breakdowns. We have to be mentally tough.”
Karvel Anderson added 15 for Robert Morris, which turned the ball 16 times.
Dickenman said he still believes Robert Morris is the team to beat.
“The league is topsy-turvy,” Dickenman said. “I'm not sure how it will end up. There are still 16 games to be played.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.