Another game, another starting lineup. I actually liked this one on paper, Relly, Levi, Hale, Coop, and Jimmie. It didn't work out very well; it took us about 5 minutes to score as Robert Morris built an early 9-0 lead. The first 17 minutes or so was about as ugly as I have ever seen us play. Thankfully we were able to tighten up on defense and only trail 23-20 at the half.
We played much better in the second half. Our guards tried to push the ball as much as possible to attack the rim before Robert Morris could set up their defense. The press was very effective and we were able to take control of the game by getting steals and fast break layups.
I saw one of the worst calls I've ever seen in a basketball game go in our favor, and I'm surprised the Robert Morris coach was not more upset about it. In the midst of our run, we were in a full court man to man as Robert Morris had a spot throw from their own baseline. One of the Colonials guards flashed back towards the corner trying to get open, and Retin literally just shoved him out of bounds. The guy ended up somewhere between the cheerleaders and the dance team, and we got the 5 second violation.
In addition to the offense that we were able to create from turnovers, we also executed a few high post plays against their zone to get some good looks in the second half. Cooper and Carl both did a good job of handling the ball and making good decisions in those sets. We had a huge size advantage of Robert Morris, otherwise that probably would not have been as effective.
Carl had a great game with 8 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes. I was very disappointed in Nick Jacobs, with the Colonials lack of size, this is a game he should have dominated. Instead he had 4 points and only 2 rebounds in 18 minutes, including 2 air balls from within 4 feet of the basket. One of those air balls in the first half he was wide open on the low block and would have had an easy dunk. I'm still trying to figure out how he not only missed, but missed everything.
Releford had another great game and took over when we desperately needed him to. It was nice to see Retin bounce back after having a couple of bad games, and Shannon Hale continues to develop, making the most of his start with 7 points and 5 boards in 21 minutes.
We've lost a number of close games due to our inability to rebound, but we did a great job as a team on the glass in this game. Robert Morris got very few second chance opportunities. Free throw shooting still wasn't great, we were only 52.4%, but we generally made the ones we had to late in the game.
A few of the students have made their way back, but it was still a very sparse crowd. I would estimate no more than 2,500 or so. The team had to create their own energy, as the crowd wasn't really into the game, with the exception of a few minutes in the 2nd half when we made our run to take control of the game.
So, that concludes the non-conference portion of the schedule. At 6-7, it certainly wasn't what we were hoping for. Up next, we start SEC play with Vanderbilt in Tuscaloosa for an 8 p.m. tipoff Tuesday night.