Robert Morris switches up defensive scheme


Andy Toole and Rasheem Dunn go over strategy against Lancaster Bible. Photo credit: Tyler Gallo

By Ethan Morrison, Assistant Editor

Robert Morris has struggled over their first seven games of the 2021-22 season. There are a lot of things that one can attribute to their struggles, whether that be shot selection, ball control, or rebounding.

However, one that stuck out like a sore thumb was the team’s effort on the defensive end.

The team was lackadaisical over the first several games, not switching quick enough and not showing the defensive intensity that head coach Andy Toole is used to seeing out of his guys.

Throughout the Toole era, his defensive sets consisted of mostly man-to-man. That style of defense worked well in Northeast Conference play and they even had success last season during a COVID-shortened year.

In their last five seasons, Robert Morris found a lot of success on the defensive end of the floor holding teams to 70 points in the 2015-16 season ranking fourth in the NEC.

During the 2016-17 season, they ranked second in scoring defense, allowing just 67 points per game, and in the 2017-18 season, they once again finished second in scoring defense just allowing 70 points.

In their penultimate season in the Northeast Conference they allowed 68 points per game on the defensive end and then in their final season in the NEC they allowed just 67 points.

The Horizon League hasn’t treated that Colonial defense as kindly, as they ranked tenth in scoring defense, allowing 78 points per game last season.

Coming into their game against Lancaster Bible, the team was allowing 78 points per game.

Things were starting to improve on the defensive end of the floor for Robert Morris in their first two games of Horizon League play.

Head Coach Andy Toole was asked about the switch to zone defense and how that has helped the team defensively.

“I don’t think we’re better defensively in it yet. I think it simplifies some things for us, we still have a long way to go regardless of whatever defense we’re playing understanding some of the plays that we have to make and some of the rebounds we have to get,” Toole said. “We are not always embracing some of the hard things that we need to do to win, whether it is the physical play or the tough rebound or the big stop. We’ve got to find ways to do that, but I think the zone can simplify some things for people and allow us to handle our rotation better.”

Robert Morris still has a long road ahead of them if they want to compete night in and night out on the court, but if Toole’s squad can get a grip of this zone defense that will be one of the major issues that will be resolved heading into the bulk of conference play.