Robert Morris Looks to Avenge Final Regular Season Loss to IUPUI in First Home Playoff Game since 2019-20

Ethan Morrison

For the first time since the 2019-20 season, Robert Morris will host their first home playoff game as they take on IUPUI tonight at 7 p.m. at the UPMC Events Center.

The Colonials enter tonight’s matchup winners of four of their last five games and finished Horizon League play at .500 posting a record of 10-10 in league play which was good for sixth place in the conference.

Sophomore guard Jackson Last expressed his excitement to Colonial Sports Network on Monday before practice about the opportunity to host a home playoff game at the UPMC events center and how much of an impact home-court advantage is for the team.

“I am very excited,” Last said. “We love to get a chance to get back at these guys [IUPUI] because we lost our last game to them and we are super excited about a home playoff game. The last time we played here at UPMC [Events Center] we had an awesome crowd. When we played Youngstown State the student section was rocking so we are really looking forward to it.”

Robert Morris is no stranger to the Jaguars as they wrapped up their regular season schedule on the road against IUPUI in Indianapolis last Thursday falling 81-75. Head coach Andy Toole said the mindset does not change entering the game on Tuesday but the team will have to clean some things up before tip Tuesday night.

“As it became apparent that we would play them [IUPUI] again we needed to refocus and there were definitely some things that we needed to clean up. I credit IUPUI. They played an excellent game when we played them on Thursday as they made some really great shots down the stretch and made some big plays so that is one of the things that we have to counter. We have to make sure we are guarding the ball better and rebounding better.”

The men’s basketball team is hosting a playoff game for the first time since the 2020 NEC Championship Game Photo credit: Kyle Le

Playing a team back-to-back from the last regular season game to the first round of the playoff game is somewhat of a rarity in college basketball. Still, it is not one for Toole as this has occurred for him four times before twice now in the Horizon League and twice back in the Northeast Conference in his 13-year tenure as a coach at Robert Morris. In those games, Toole posted a 1-2 record in those games with the last occurrence coming back in 2020-21 when the Colonials took on Detroit Mercy.

Toole said that the mindset has to stay the same coming into the playoff game against the same opponent.

“You have to go out and execute both your offense and your defense and take care of all of those little things that can impact winning such as loose balls positioning on the court and taking care of the basketball which all can be a separator of a win and a loss in these kinds of environments.

Over the course of the season, Robert Morris worked towards finding consistency in the offense. Over the past several games leading up to the tournament, they found cohesiveness within the offense and defensive side of the ball. Toole discussed that the team has improved consistently over the course of the season, which sets this team apart from the previous teams that competed in the Horizon League before them.

“There is always a learning curve to every season,” Toole said. “Implementing new guys into the rotation. It took some time for everyone to get cohesive and to gel but gradually over the year and we have gotten better over the course of the season. We are more consistent in our ability to execute and there is a great desire for these guys to be successful and want to win. When you have that kind of mindset you can continue to improve and get better.”

The bench has also played a major role in the Colonials game this season as players like Michael Green III, T.J. Wainwright and Chris Ford have all made a sizable impact coming off the bench this season. Last described is the bench’s ability to keep the energy up when the starters need to come out for a rest.

“Especially over the last couple of weeks our bench has been awesome,” Last said. “Chris Ford was one guy that was having a hard time early on in the season to find his role but lately he has been doing a great job doing the little things whether that is taking a charge, chasing down a rebound, or getting the dunk against Youngstown [State]. There are others guys too that have had the ability to find their role and that niche that they can come in and make an impact on the floor.”

As Robert Morris eyes their second consecutive trip to the Horizon League quarterfinals they will have to handle their business tonight and avenge their loss against IUPUI from last Thursday.