Robert Morris beats Bryant to end 3-game losing streak
Within less than 48 hours, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole saw just about the worst from his team and something that so far approximates the best.
What's the explanation?
“I have no idea,” Toole said with a slight laugh Saturday after the Colonials shredded Bryant with 55-percent shooting and their highest point total of the season in an 89-71 win at Sewall Center. “At this point in time I'm not sure it has anything to do with me.”
This has been a strange and difficult sixth season for Toole, who likely deserves a pass for occasional bewilderment. Having earned success and a sterling reputation, stretching your record to 7-18 (5-7 NEC) is uncharted territory.
The win posed a marked reversal from Thursday when RMU lost its third consecutive game, falling to conference doormat Central Connecticut. Toole afterward announced that forward Elijah Minnie, a 6-foot-8 sophomore center from Lincoln Park and the club's second-leading scorer and rebounder, had been suspended, not for the first time and probably for good.
The stated reason then was the boilerplate “violation of team rules.” After confirming Minnie's departure Saturday, Toole was asked for something more specific. He thought for a moment and replied, “Lack of coachability?”
Toole would not in so many words say the action constituted addition by subtraction, but coincidence or not, he did notice some welcome changes against the Bulldogs (7-18, 4-8), who lost their seventh in a row.
“It is nice to know that when you're talking to people during the game, they're trying to execute what you're asking them to do, and there's not the elephant in the room of ‘Can we communicate today?' or ‘Are we gonna get eye-contact today?' and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “It makes it hard to coach.”
For good measure he added, “When one guy is maybe acting in that way, it's easy for other guys to act in a similar way and it's not productive for anybody.”
Production took many forms for the Colonials, who outrebounded Bryant, 42-27. Billy Giles, a 6-7 forward in his first season with the Colonials after transferring from junior college, had a season-high 23 points to go with 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes.
Isaiah Still, a 6-6 freshman, scored 22, giving him 66 points in his past three games, and leading scorer Rodney Pryor, after a 1-for-10 shooting nightmare against Central Connecticut, made five of nine shots, including a monster slam in the first half. The senior scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“We definitely felt better today,” said Giles, who shot 11 of 16. “We came in here knowing we would have a good day. That was the mantra all day long — it's gonna be a good game, go hard on every play. And, also, we knew to attack the basket, so that was a big part of the game, going hard to the rim.”
Notoriously slow starters, the Colonials found themselves in the strange position of leading at halftime 44-37. They quickly broke the game open after the break.
“We've got to come out with that mindset every game,” Still said. “Usually we dig ourselves a hole in the first half and have to play catch up. It felt good.”
Bob Cohn is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.