It was hard to envision the Robert Morris Colonials upsetting the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater on Monday night. RMU had to play a perfect game, and they didn't. It was important for them to start the game strong, and they didn't. Instead, the Colonials found themselves trailing 0 - 9 a little more than three minutes into the game. The Cowboys were simply too athletic, too skilled, and too overpowering for Robert Morris to overcome.
RMU made things interesting at times in the first half. A layup by senior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate shortly after OSU sophomore point guard Marcus Smart picked up this second foul cut the Cowboys lead to just nine points at the 9:56 mark in the first half.
After Cowboys junior forward Le'Bryan Nash picked up his second foul of the half at the 5:11 mark, the Colonials went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to just eight points with just under four minutes remaining in the half. However, an 11-4 run by OSU to close the half, highlighted by back-to-back triples, saw the Cowboys heading to the locker room leading 46 - 31.
The second half saw the return of Smart and Nash to the lineup; they either scored and/or assisted on the first 11 points for OSU. The Cowboys got into transition after every Robert Morris miss, and usually finished those opportunities with a highlight dunk. OSU literally ran away from RMU and coasted to a 92 - 66 victory.
The Colonials were led by senior guard Karvel Anderson who finished the night with 16 points on 7-14 shooting. He wasn't feeling it from long distance (2-7), but found other ways to score.
The rest of the starters really struggled, especially junior guard/forward Lucky Jones. He was 1-11 from the floor, and wasn't able to attack the basket as relentlessly as he had been. However, the bench played really well (31 points) all things considered.
The Cowboys got 18 points out of senior guard Markel Brown in 30 minutes of play. Smart finished the game with just seven points, but he did net eight assists. He only played 19 minutes because of foul trouble in the first half, and wasn't needed midway through the second half.
Sophomore guard Phil Forte came off the bench to lead OSU in scoring with 20 points, including five triples. Nash finished the game with nine points and five rebounds, but again, was in foul trouble early and then rested for a bulk of the second half. He dominated Robert Morris when he was positioned in the short corner, and went to the line six times thanks to his aggressiveness around the rim.
I observed the RMU practice that head coach Andy Toole conducted on Saturday. His biggest concern was the player occupying the high post and elbow areas when the Colonials were in their aggressive 2-3 zone. The Cowboys hadn't played a lot against the zone in their first 12 games - primarily against South Carolina in the second half.
However, they had a very good game plan for attacking the Robert Morris 2-3 zone. It showed early on as Smart was able to hit an uncontested three-pointer from the top of the circle to give him his fifth point at the 18:56 mark in the first half. Brown dribbled right at Anderson from the left wing. Myers-Pate sunk into the zone to try and cut off the penetration while Smart rotated from the right wing to the top of the circle. Brown kicked the ball to Smart for an in-rhythm triple.
In the end, it was unlikely for RMU to get a road win on Monday night. They put forth a valiant effort, but weren't able to overcome the fast start by OSU. Once the Cowboys got in transition early and often in the second half, the game was all but decided. The Colonials will finish up non-conference play at Alabama (5-7) on Saturday. A win over the Crimson Tide would perhaps give this team something to feel good about before they start NEC play.
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