In the end, it came down to effort. And Robert Morris just didn’t quite have enough.
While the team managed to cut Bucknell’s lead to just two points with 12 seconds to play — crawling back from a 15-point deficit at one point in both the first and second halves — the Colonials couldn’t quite seem to gain sufficient traction to make it over the hump.
Bucknell (2-1) spoiled Robert Morris’ home opener 81-76 on Friday at the Sewall Center, continually capitalizing on the Colonials’ defensive breakdowns.
“It’s all about effort,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “Playing at the appropriate effort, sustaining your effort. So when we’re following our slides, and we’re active, and we’re playing with the right effort, we have good defensive stops.
“It’s just not long enough. It’s got to be every time.”
The Colonials (0-3) only led Bucknell by one point early in the game and couldn’t seem to hold on to any momentum. Some of the momentum killers are easy to clean up, Toole said, like technical fouls, fouls on three-pointers and dropping the ball out of bounds on rebounds. Some come down to effort, like an instance in the first half where Bucknell sophomore center Nana Foulland posted Colonials sophomore forward Andre Frederick three times — Frederick handled it perfectly the first two times but gave up on the third, which ended in a pass to the corner and a three-point shot.
Toole said his starters can change this tone by, well, starting faster.
“A lot of our guys are trying to save themselves, and when you’re trying to conserve energy in a college basketball game, you’re going to find yourself behind,” he said. “All of a sudden, we get behind and the guys go, ‘Oh man, we’ve got to play harder.’ And we work our way back in.”
Junior point guard Kavon Stewart said the players are well aware of the defensive breakdowns and prepared to fix them.
“When we’re not in our spots, when we’re not disciplined, they capitalize on everything,” Stewart said. “And the craziest thing is, that’s one of our rules, to stay in effort and be disciplined on defense. And every time we’re not disciplined, it cost us a lot.”
Senior guard Rodney Pryor was Robert Morris’ top scorer with 15 points, 12 of them in the second half. Bucknell sophomore forward Zach Thomas led the game with 19 points.
“We were expecting guys to come in and do what they did,” Pryor said. “We gave up so many wide open looks, so many easy duck-ins for the bigs. And you can’t win like that.”
The Colonials play Air Force at 4 p.m. Sunday in Colorado Springs, Colo.