Second-half surge carries St. Francis (Pa.) past Robert Morris
Not for the first time, peace and harmony proved unsustainable for Robert Morris. The Colonials on Thursday started another game with a player out of uniform and again finished on the wrong end of the score.
The latest bit of drama came courtesy of freshman Isaiah Still, who was coming off a three-game, 66-point stretch. But the 6-foot-6 forward had zero points in a 68-57 loss to St. Francis (Pa.) at Sewall Center because if there is one ironclad rule of sports, it's that you can't score if you don't play.
Observing from the bench in street clothes, Still received a three-game suspension for violating athletic department policy. Toole called his absence “huge,” twice repeating the word. His suspension followed last week's dismissal of another starting forward, Elijah Minnie, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder.
There have been other suspensions and varied forms of discord sprinkled among a general lack of smart play, cohesion and consistent effort. No words of wisdom, even in big letters, apparently can fix it.
“There's a huge sign in our locker room that says, ‘If the force is greater than the resistance, motion will result,' ” Colonials coach Andy Toole said near the end of a postgame news conference that began with a deep sigh. “Force being a positive thing, resistance being a negative thing. All we ever do is provide resistance for ourselves.”
Not that St. Francis isn't pretty good. Toole said he likes watching the team play. “I emphasize team,” he couldn't resist saying.
But back to his, um, team.
“You get resistance from opponents, you get resistance from officials, you get resistance from injuries, you get resistance from opposing fans,” Toole said. “You get all this resistance from outside the locker room, and the positive force is supposed to come from inside the locker room. We get just as much resistance from inside the locker room. And so it's really hard to have success, and that's what you see.”
It didn't help that the depleted Colonials (7-19, 5-8 Northeast Conference), coming off a needed win Saturday, were taking on the first-place Red Flash (13-11, 9-4). RMU led by three as the second half neared its midpoint before a 19-4 St. Francis run put things away.
Freshman guard Matty McConnell said he was thrilled his older brother, T.J., who was on leave from the Philadelphia 76ers during the NBA All-Star break, showed up to see him play.
“It was nice looking up in the stands and seeing his face there, and it kind of gave me a pep in my step at the beginning of the game,” he said. “And then it started to calm down.”
McConnell knocked in two of his first three shots, both 3-pointers. The rest of the game he was 1 for 12. But McConnell was hardly the problem. Just part of it. If nothing else, it has been a total team effort.
Coming off a 23-point, 20-rebound performance in his last game, St. Francis 6-7 senior forward Ronnie Grinnon had 17 and 16 against the Colonials. Three others also scored in double figures.
Rodney Pryor had 14 points for RMU.
Toole said he appreciated the Colonials' “fight” and acknowledged there were some good moments. But “not enough,” he said.
“From a physical standpoint, I thought we did what needed to be done,” Toole said. “Unfortunately we just had too many mental breakdowns. Scouting report stuff. Lack of awareness stuff. Kind of the mental focus stuff that really hurts you. Like, they make nine (3-point shots), and we only contested one.”
The Colonials, meanwhile, missed 17 of 21 3-point attempts. It has been a weakness all season but they kept chucking away, and St. Francis was happy to let them.
“There's a reason guys are open from the 3-point line,” Toole said.
Bob Cohn is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib.com.