The Robert Morris Colonials (5-8) took the court for two hours yesterday to prepare for Monday night's showdown against the Oklahoma St. Cowboys (11-1). Head coach Andy Toole delivered a simple message to his team at the beginning of practice, "Compete to get better." Toole realizes that the margin for error against the Cowboys is non-existent. A few blown rotations, one too many lazy passes, and Robert Morris will find themselves on the wrong side of a lopsided loss. So what do the Colonials have to do to stun the fans in the Gallagher-Iba Arena?
- Senior guard Karvel Anderson is going to have to be special. Anderson has battled the flu for over a week now, but was feeling better at practice yesterday. RMU assistant coach Robby Pridgen said that he looked much better since returning from Christmas break. Anderson is going to have to stretch the defense with ability to connect from beyond the arc. Of course, he is going to have to make quite a few triples; he is currently tied for 6th in the country with 44 triples - on 45.4% shooting from long distance.
- Junior guard/forward Lucky Jones is going to need to continue to excel on the road. Jones is averaging just under 20 points per game over his last three road games (18.7). He has also scored at least 24 points in two of those games, and while he struggled with his shot against Youngstown St., he pulled in a season-high 11 rebounds. Both Anderson and Jones are going to have to make whoever guards them (point guard Marcus Smart, guard Markel Brown, and forward Le'Bryan Nash) work on the defensive end in an effort to take a little wind out of their sails on offense.
- The communication in the 2-3 zone is going to have to be flawless. OSU runs a lot of sets that result in Smart or Nash getting the ball at the elbow or just below the high-post. Robert Morris is going to have make sure they understand who is responsible for the player that enters the high-post area, or the Cowboys are going to get good looks from that area every possession. Outside of guard Phil Forte, there isn't a great three-pointer shooter on the OSU roster. However, we've seen some teams have success with dribble penetration through the top of the zone. Smart is the best penetrating guard that the Colonials will see all year, and he'll more than likely test his ability to get into the lane off the dribble early.
- The Cowboys will deny RMU players the ball and look to create turnovers. If OSU plays a lot of UTL/OTL closed-stance M2M defense, perhaps it will open up opportunities for players to cut back-door and flatten-out the defense while playing with a man advantage in those situations. Robert Morris is going to have be strong with the ball, and make sure they don't allow the pressure to force them well beyond the three-point line to receive passes and initiate offense.
It would be really shocking if the Colonials upset the Cowboys. With that said, if they stick to their game plan, they'll give themselves a chance. It isn't about incorporating a bunch of new wrinkles, or changing any of their philosophies. It's about attention to detail, and as head coach Toole put it, "Simple decision are usually the best kind." RMU just has to play their game, albeit at the highest of levels, in order to be competitive against OSU tomorrow night.