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Robert Morris

RMU coach Toole looks for consistency as NEC play begins

Paul Schofield
| Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, 9:25 p.m.
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole looks on from the bench against Mansfield on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, at Sewall Center.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole looks on from the bench against Mansfield on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, at Sewall Center.

Robert Morris men's basketball coach Andy Toole has learned a lot about his team since the start of the season.

He's watched his team grow — maybe a little slower than he had hoped — but he's hoping the team can build off a good performance in a 64-57 loss to ACC foe Clemson on Tuesday. The matchup closed out the nonconference schedule.

“If we continue to play that way, good things will happen,” Toole said. “We've figured out the rotation we like, and the younger players are starting to learn what it takes to compete in college.

“We were hoping with the mixture of veteran players it wouldn't take this long.”

Robert Morris (4-8) opens Northeast Conference play Saturday against Mount St. Mary's, the team that defeated them in the NEC championship game and denied them a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Mount St. Mary's (4-7), like Robert Morris, is going through growing pains after losing guards and leading scorers Rashad Whack (17.6), Julian Norfleet (17.2) and Sam Prescott (11.2) to graduation.

“They are similar to us,” Toole said. “They've played a tough nonconference schedule, and they've had their ups and downs. They play that mayhem defense and shoot a lot of 3s. When they've put it together, they have played very well.”

Mount St. Mary's has lost to No. 2 Arizona, Wake Forest, Seton Hall and Notre Dame. It is coming off a 69-35 loss at Old Dominion on Monday.

Andrew Smeathers, who transferred from Butler, came off the bench to score 12 points for Mount St. Mary's, which shot 22 percent (11 for 50) from the field.

Mount St. Mary's doesn't have a player averaging in double figures. Poor shooting has been the main culprit.

Toole said he is pleased with how his team played at Clemson, especially in the second half.

“We didn't quit after falling behind by double figures,” Toole said. “We had good execution and good shooters get shots. They didn't fall, and that happens.

“We've had a lot of great individual performances this season. We just haven't been as consistent has we've hoped. But we're getting better.”

Junior-college transfer Rodney Pryor, who leads the team at 13.8 points per game, freshman Marcquise Reed (13.3) and senior Lucky Jones (12.5) give the Colonials three scoring threats.

Over the past five games, Pryor and Reed have combined to average 30.4 points per game.

Other Colonials who are being counted on to contribute include sophomore point guard Kavon Stewart, junior forward Stephan Bennett, freshman center Elijah Minnie, junior forward Aaron Tate and senior guard David Appolon.

Minnie had consecutive double-doubles against Buffalo and Duquesne.

This week begins an important stretch for Robert Morris. It will play four games in eight days, including three on the road beginning Monday at St. Francis (Pa.). The Colonials finish the road trip Thursday at Wagner and Saturday at Central Connecticut State.

“We're definitely headed in the right direction,” Toole said. “Other than the Duquesne game when we put forth consistent effort and energy, we have yet to put it all together on a consistent basis.”

Toole hopes consistent efforts become the norm as conference play begins.

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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