In its second-to-last non-conference game of the season, Robert Morris fell to 5-9 after a 92-66 loss at No. 6 Oklahoma State. Here are a few thoughts on how the game went and what it may mean for the Colonials:
*** If there's one thing a team needs to do well if they hope to hang with or upset a top-ranked opponent on the road, it's shoot incredibly well from 3-point range. When you're a team constructed like Robert Morris -- with 33.3 percent of the team's points coming from beyond the arc -- that becomes doubly true.
Monday night, that didn't turn out to be the case for the Colonials, as they shot 24 percent from 3-point range, missing 19 of their 25 attempts. No player on the team that had multiple attempts shot better than 28.6 percent (Karvel Anderson). The looks were not forced ones and in many cases, they were pretty open; they just didn't fall. More than 40 percent of the team's shots came from deep, about five percent more than its season average, something which makes sense given the opponent and the whole situation. But if at least 40 percent of those shots aren't going in, there isn't a realistic expectation of winning.
*** I talked with Andy Toole some about Oklahoma State's transition game in the days leading up to the matchup, and it was as good as advertised. There's something of a misnomer for some basketball fans that fast breaks only come from turnovers, but that's far from the case. The Cowboys displayed as much last night.
Unfortunately, I'm typing this from my work computer and can't get access to the ESPN3 replay for some screenshots, but there were several instances where Robert Morris would miss a shot, Oklahoma State would grab the rebound and in about 2-3 passes in a handful of seconds -- all without the ball touching the court -- it would have a virtually uncontested layup or dunk on the other end. Part of that is Robert Morris' subpar transition defense, but it's also got a lot to do with just how good Oklahoma State is on the break.
*** Oklahoma State doesn't have the deepest frontcourt and though that's not RMU's greatest strength, either, it lost almost any opportunity to take advantage of that potential weakness with foul trouble. Mike McFadden picked up three fouls pretty early and was limited to 14 minutes, Jeremiah Worthem had four fouls in 21 minutes and Stephan Hawkins had four fouls in 20 minutes.
In all, the team's four big men -- McFadden, Worthem, Hawkins and Aaron Tate -- had more fouls (16) than points (13).
*** There was much made entering the game about Oklahoma State's ability to force turnovers, but Robert Morris only coughed it up eight times. Seemingly each one of those turnovers led to Oklahoma State points on the other end, but still, not a bad performance against a team like the Cowboys.
Also worth noting: in RMU's last 240 minutes of play, Anthony Myers-Pate has had 34 assists and just six turnovers. He may not be scoring much, but he's having a pretty good season when it comes to some of the basic responsibilities of a point guard.
*** It had to be encouraging to see Robert Morris get within eight points while Marcus Smart and Le'Bryan Nash were on the bench in foul trouble, but the real test was going to be what happened once the star duo got back in. Maybe announcers have made it this way, but the whole "first five minutes of the second half are super important" mindset has almost become a shtick. Still, it holds true in a lot of games.
With its normal lineup in the game to start the second half, Oklahoma State went on a 13-5 run that turned a 15-point lead into a 23-point one with about 15 minutes remaining. From there, any chance of an upset or even a scare vanished.
*** Tempo-free update: the Colonials averaged 0.93 points per possession (their fourth-worst performance of the season) and allowed 1.26 points per possession (tied for its second-worst performance of the season) against the Cowboys.
*** It was partially a product of foul trouble and the lopsided final result, but Robert Morris got 31 points from its bench last night. That wasn't their highest-scoring bench performance of the season, but when you look at the percentage of the team's points that came from bench players (47 percent), it has to be up there.
Tate had some pretty nonsensical fouls, but he had a team-high six rebounds. David Appolon did a few good things, scoring seven points and grabbing three boards. However, he also tried dunking from just inside the free throw line and had a pretty cheap foul on an Oklahoma State player going up for an uncontested dunk. Hawkins, too, really stood out at times. His offensive game is still pretty raw, especially with his back to the basket, but if he can knock down mid-range jumpers like he was last night on a semi-consistent basis, he could be a valuable player in the team's rotation.
*** Overall, it's hard for Robert Morris to walk away from this loss feeling too down on itself. It lost by more than 20 points in a game in which it was expected to lose by more than 20 points and for a brief moment in the first half, it even made things a little interesting.
A game against a top-10 team could be something that prepares them for conference play or it could become a distant memory of a garden-variety blowout in a few months. Time will tell on that, but after last night's performance, it's hard to be too critical of the Colonials' performance against a clearly superior opponent.