NIT Season Tip-Off: Lehigh 89, Robert Morris 60

Joe Camporeale USPRESSWIRE

The Mountain Hawks took some time to warm up, but gradually put away a Robert Morris team that appeared most definitely over-matched.

I'm sure that, coming into this game, most in attendance were of the mindset that Lehigh was playing a warm-up game for their inevitable matchup against Pitt the following night.

As it turned out, those people were probably right. The Mountain Hawks were a Stefan Cvrkalj missed free-throw away from having six different players reach double-digit points, and they spent most of the second half nursing a 20 point lead en route to an 89-60 win.

Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole said that , despite the end result, this game was a good one for his team to have.

"This is a bizarre thing to say; we lost by 29 points but I think I got my team back," Toole said. "I've talked about fighting success - as much as you talk about how this isn't last season, and it's not 'this is big bad Robert Morris and people are just going to cower - this was good for us."

He was also very disappointed with his team's defensive effort, and he pointed specifically to Cvrkalj's first-half performance from behind the arc.

"When you turn it over 21 times, its hard to win. When it's simple scouting report and you don't close out on a guy who we know is a catch-and-shoot guy, its hard to win."

He pointed to the team's loss against Rider in saying that he preferred the team effort of this game versus the "every man for himself" style he saw there, but noted some changes still needed to be made, pointing specifically to a sequence involving his point guard, Velton Jones.

"Some of it is decision making, some guys trying to penetrate a little too far and do things that aren't there," said Toole. "But some of them are just brain-dead not being strong with the ball. It's shooting yourself in the foot. We're down ten, Velton tries to split the defense and falls down, they go down and make a three. You're about to cut it to eight and instead they're up thirteen, it deflates you a little bit."

When asked about McCollum, he pointed out that he makes everything look effortless, including pull-up jumpers with two hands in his face - and that his work ethic is what gets him there.

"Here's how you get that poise and that confidence - by spending hours and hours and hours in the gym," Toole said. "The reason he knows he can rock you two dribbles, and go to his left, and raise up and shoot a jumper is because he's done it a million times and can do it in his sleep. We can teach it, come on down to the gym and we'll teach you; but you have to be willing to put in the extra time and effort to become that fluid and that natural with it."

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