Robert Morris ready for fresh start as new year begins
There is nothing Robert Morris can do about its worst start since the 2001-02 season.
With a 2-11 record against one of the toughest nonconference schedule in school history, the Colonials begin 2016 like everyone in the Northeast Conference — 0-0.
Teams in mid-major conferences, which get one berth in the NCAA Tournament, need be at their best before conference tournaments.
So during the next two months, the Colonials must work to qualify for the postseason tournament, which will put them in a position to repeat what they did in 2014-15.
Robert Morris was in a similar situation last year before putting together a seven-game winning streak, which culminated in a Northeast Conference Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The Colonials rallied to defeat North Florida, 81-77, in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national champion Duke, 85-56.
“Our goals are still obtainable,” RMU coach Andy Toole said as his team prepares to host to Sacred Heart (1-10) at 4 p.m. Saturday. “In the past four or five games, we've started playing more complete games. There are still things we need to clean up, but we're competing better.”
In their 13 games, the Colonials have been in position to win 11. The problem was inconsistent play during key segments of those contests.
Toole, however, lately has seen vast improvement.
“Hopefully, we learned our lessons in those losses,” Toole said. “We have to continue to compete the right way.”
Senior Rodney Pryor and sophomore Elijah Minnie have been the most consistent scorers. Pryor leads the team with 21.7 points per game. Minnie averages 12.5 and has a team-high 23 blocked shots.
Toole used nonconference games to find the right combinations. He'd like to use a rotation of eight to 10 players, but a leg injury to senior forward Aaron Tate and freshman Jordan Lester's illness altered those plans.
Freshmen Matt McConnell (Chartiers Valley) and Isaiah Still, and junior college transfer Billy Giles have been big contributors.
“All of the new players are adjusting to the speed of the game,” Toole said.
Sacred Heart comes into the contest riding a 10-game losing streak. Sophomore guard Cane Broome averages a team-best 19.9 point.
Only two NEC teams have a winning record — Wagner (7-4) and Long Island (6-5).
“No one in the conference has ripped it up,” Toole said..