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Despite letdown, no letup at Robert Morris

| Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, 11:12 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole walks past his depleted bench during a game against Bryant on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, at Sewall Center.

Robert Morris coach Andy Toole on Friday made clear his expectations for the rest of this season for his short-handed squad: The winning should continue.

Toole made no excuses for his Colonials despite having a roster reduced to eight players after school officials suspended four, including starter Jeremiah Worthem, for violating university policy.

“We have to be intelligent how we practice,” said Toole, whose team has won three straight since the suspensions and continues to lead the Northeast Conference at 7-0, 12-10 overall. “That's a balance we're figuring out: How do we make sure guys are staying in condition and staying sharp but still trying to stay fresh.”

Citing the 2011 dismissal of leading scorer Karon Abraham for violating university policy, Toole noted that RMU went on to post back-to-back 20-win seasons.

“We were able to win 50 games the following two years in his absence,” Toole said.

In the three games since the suspensions, all remaining eight players have seen action. In the first two games, seven of the eight logged at least 20 minutes. In Thursday's 79-76 win over Bryant, four of the five starters played at least 30 minutes, while the fourth starter, Karvel Anderson, played 29 minutes.

Conversely, two of Bryant's starters played all 40 minutes, and two other starters logged 39 minutes apiece.

“If you look across our league, there's a lot of teams with rotations of seven and eight players,” Toole said. “Bryant was almost a rotation of six and then a guy playing a couple minutes after that. The only thing that makes you worry is in case of anything else. Does somebody roll an ankle? Does somebody get sick? Is there something that pops up that takes somebody out of the rotation for a game? Now you're stretched thin.”

Toole said practices have been trimmed from two hours to no more than 90 minutes.

The key in advance of the 4 p.m. tipoff Saturday against Central Connecticut State at Sewall Center, Toole said, is winning at home.

Saturday caps a stretch of four consecutive home games. The Colonials then play three straight on the road before returning home to face Mount St. Mary's on Feb. 15.

“It's huge,” said Toole about winning at home. “I was thinking along those lines earlier, if something like this were to happen. See how guys respond when they go on the road.”

RMU is 3-0 in road conference games.

Toole promised to continue monitoring playing time and said he likely will add a few walk-ons for practices.

“We've put some feelers out,” he said.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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