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Robert Morris hopes loss builds character

Paul Schofield

When Robert Morris freshman Yann Charles took a charging foul with 14 seconds left Tuesday against No. 5 Pitt, first-year coach Andrew Toole stood and applauded the effort.

Toole, the youngest coach in Division I basketball, knows that toughness is what defines the Robert Morris men’s basketball program.

It’s a program that is built on out-working and out-hustling opponents, and with a brutal road schedule ahead, which features games at West Virginia, Arizona, Ohio University, Morgan State, Appalachian State and Cleveland State, a battle against Pitt should help.

There were times that Robert Morris (2-2) did that against Pitt, which overwhelmed the Colonials with its size. Pitt finally pulled away in the final 10 minutes for a 74-53 victory.

But it wasn’t the overall performance Toole expects and demands.

“There were stretches in the first half, mainly the second part of the first half, where we played Robert Morris basketball,” Toole said. “In the second half, probably from the 16-minute mark to the 10-minute mark, again, I liked they way we played.

“But other than that, I didn’t think we competed the way we needed to compete. I was disappointed in our ability to compete and fight. That’s something over the last three years we’ve done ever single game.”

Toole said he also saw some doubt in the players’ eyes, which is a big concern.

There were some good signs that Toole hopes his team builds on. Robert Morris played without arguably its best player, Karon Abraham, who was on the bench is street clothes while serving at least a one-game suspension.

With Abraham relegated to a cheerleader, the Colonials were forced to look to other options.

They did force Pitt into 15 turnovers while only turning the ball over a season-low eight times. The Colonials also had a season-high 15 assists but made only 21 of 68 shots from the floor.

“We just couldn’t make a shot because we didn’t do a very good job executing our offense,” Tootle said. “Any time you look at the assist-to-turnover ratio, and yours is positive and theirs is close to one to one, you’re going to like your chances.

“I just thought we took some quick shots at times. I didn’t think we executed well enough in order to change sides of the floor and make them work defensively.”

Toole said there were some possessions in which his offense did execute to get open looks.

However, it was the times they did too much one-on-one that frustrated Toole.

“You have to penetrate to pass,” Toole said. “When you saw our guys get into the lane and kick out to shooters, they made good, open shots. We just didn’t do that frequently enough.

“We had 15 assists on 21 field goals. I told our guys after the game ‘that should tell you something, that should tell you that you need your teammates in order to score against a team like Pitt. You can’t do it one-on-one.’ ”

Russell Johnson had his second double-double on the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Charles, Coron Williams, who started in Abraham’s place, and Elton Roy each scored eight points.

Toole also said his team didn’t get enough loose balls and had too many defensive breakdowns.

“There is a standard you hold you’re team to all the time, regardless of the score. Things that this program is built on: outworking your opponent, being relentless, making plays for your teammates.” Toole said. “It doesn’t matter who is on the floor, those are things you have to do regardless if you want to try and win basketball games, and we didn’t do that.

“Maybe not having Karon put some more doubt in guys’ minds but not in mine. Coron Williams and Elton Roy are pretty good shooters. Those guys got an opportunity to play against the No. 5 team in the country and play major minutes. We didn’t play the game the way Robert Morris is supposed to play the game.”

Robert Morris is off until Monday, when it travels to Cleveland State.


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