Based on the way the Robert Morris Colonials carried themselves on Saturday night, you wouldn't have guessed they lost their last two games by an average of at least double-digits. There was an energy on the court that had been missing during the early part of the season.
Sophomore point guard Kavon Stewart set the tone with two early steals and kept the pressure on the defense by constantly looking for driving lanes and attacking. Junior forward Rodney Pryor carried the offensive load in the absence of senior guard/forward Lucky Jones; Robert Morris led for 18 minutes of the first half.
The Duquesne Dukes found themselves in early foul trouble; they put RMU in the bonus by the 14:30 mark. The frustration overtook head coach Jim Ferry at one point as he picked up a technical foul in the first half. Duquesne also struggled to take advantage of the high post, an area that the Colonials haven't defended well through their first eight contests.
"Lack of mental toughness, lack of execution," was the response Ferry gave during his post-game press conference when asked why his team was unable to take advantage of the high post area.
The Dukes were able to muster a run early in the second half powered by three triples by junior guard Derrick Colter. The third three cut the Robert Morris lead to just four points, 46-42. Stewart checked by back into the game after the first media timeout and helped spark a 14-0 RMU run that closed the door on any potential Duquesne comeback, as they coasted to a 75-59 victory.
Pryor led all scorers with 25 points on 9-12 shooting including 4-5 from beyond the arc. Stewart recorded his first double-double of his career with 12 points and 11 assists. Ferry was extremely complimentary of Stewart, "I thought the biggest key to the game was Kavon Stewart...I thought he played fantastic."
Head coach Andy Toole also praised his point guard, "By far his best game this year." After the game, Stewart carried himself like the leader of the team. "They listen to me, they have to," was his response to how he approached getting his team ready for the game in practice.
Despite having two wins on the season, Toole never felt that his team was able to impose their will on anybody. When asked if he felt if his team was able to do that tonight, he responded, "I do from a defensive standpoint; I thought we were much better and didn't really give them good looks. I thought guys were flying around."
The Dukes were led by 17 points from Colter and freshman forward Eric James. Going into the game, Ferry felt his team mirrored the Colonials in a lot of ways, particularly when it came to how hard they compete. When asked why his team struggled to execute, he said, "We're mentally soft."
Robert Morris will play the Toledo Rockets next Wednesday on the road. Duquesne will try to rebound at home on Wednesday against the St. Francis (PA) Red Storm.