LIU Gameday Preview – Game 14 – Robert Morris

The Blackbirds return back to the Steinberg Wellness Center for the first time since December 18th as they host Robert Morris. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

The Blackbirds return back to the Steinberg Wellness Center for the first time since December 18th as they host Robert Morris. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

Game Info

Opponent: Robert Morris

Conference: NEC
Current Record: 2-13
Tip: 7:00 PM
Where: Steinberg Wellness Center – Brooklyn, NY

Broadcast: NEC Front Row

About the Opponent

Previous Game: Loss vs Wagner, 72-69
Last Season’s Record (Overall/Conference): 20-15
KenPom Rank: 282
Meeting History: 71st all-time meeting. Robert Morris leads series 40-30. LIU Brooklyn won both meetings last season.

High Scorer: Rodney Pryor, Guard, Sr., 20.5 ppg

High Rebounder: Rodney Pryor, Guard, Sr., 7.2 rpg

High Assist man: Kavon Stewart, Guard, Sr., 4.5 apg

Starting Probables

Robert Morris:

G – Kavon Stewart
G – Rodney Pryor
G – Matty McConnell
G – Isaiah Still
F – Billy Giles

LIU Brooklyn:

G – Aakim Saintil
G – Martin Hermannsson
G – Joel Hernandez
F – Nura Zanna
F – Jerome Frink

Robert Morris Scouting Report

If there is a program in the NEC that has been a model of consistent excellence, you won’t far past Robert Morris. The reigning NEC champions came into the season once again as team most thought would finish either one or two going into this season’s NEC tournament. Right now though, they are not playing like a team that is going to be competing for anything.

RMU enters tonight’s game vs LIU at 2-13. Yeah, you read that right. 2-13. They’ve dropped their first two NEC games…at home. They last lost their first two NEC games was back in 2012-13, yet that season they rebounded to finish 14-4 and win the NEC regular season title. That team though was 8-5 entering NEC play. This team was 2-11.

So why are they underachieving so far this year? They have had trouble winning close games. They are 2-4 in games decided by two possessions. If you expanded it a little further, they are 2-7 in games decided by 7 points or less. Some of these close loses come via late comebacks by RMU that fall short.

RMU, who has always been known as a team that plays solid defense and are usually very good offensively, have struggled a lot more offensively this season and have not been as strong defensively as they have been in past seasons. RMU is 304 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at 95.5 pts per 100 possessions and 221st in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency with 104.5 points allowed in 100 possessions.

The Colonials are turning the ball over 22.3% of their possessions, 335th ranked in the nation. They are allowing plenty of offensive rebounds to opponents and not really getting to the free throw line a whole lot. It is hard to imagine, but their three-point shooting percentage is actually worse than LIU’s. RMU is shooting 29.6% from three coming into this game. What has helped them is that they are shooting two-pointers well at just over 50%. Their defensive numbers show they are still good at forcing turnovers, getting steals and blocking shots. If they get things working better on the offensive end and continue improving on the defensive end, RMU should be right back in the mix for an NEC crowd as most expect.

As expected, RMU is led by senior scorer Rodney Pryor who was a preseason favorite for NEC Player of the Year and still the frontrunner heading into conference play. Pryor is second in the NEC in scoring at 20.5 ppg and seventh in the NEC in rebounding at 7.2 boards per game as well tenth in the NEC in blocked shots. He leads RMU in nearly every statistical category. One thing is though he is shooting just over 30% from three which is way down from last season as defenses have keyed in on him from deep.

The only other double digit scorer on RMU is sophomore big man Elijah Minnie. Minnie is averaging 12.3 ppg and 6.4 rebounds per game. Minnie can play on both the perimeter and obviously on the inside at 6’8”. Nearly half of his shots taken this season have been from three where is shooting 31.6%. Can be feast or fathom depending on what kind of mood he shows up to the game with. He has scored 15 or more four times this season including a season-high 29 vs New Mexico State.

A report on RMU would not be complete without mentioning junior point guard Kavon Stewart. He is third in the NEC in assists at 4.53 per game and is fourth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.66. He is coming off his best game of the season in which he scored 23 points, dished out 7 assists and had 5 steals in a loss to Wagner on Monday night. That follows a 19-point, 6-assist game against Sacred Heart. Stewart is just shooting 34% from the field and 32% from three while averaging 8.4 ppg but his hot play of late should make LIU defenders a little more aware. Should be a great matchup to watch between him and Aakim Saintil.

Three other Colonials to look out are junior forward Billy Giles (7.7 ppg), freshman guard Isaiah Still (7.4 ppg) and freshman guard Matty McConnell (5.7 ppg) who can get hot from deep in LIU isn’t careful. Senior Aaron Tate has played in just three games this season due to injury and won’t be in the lineup for RMU for this one, making it his 13th straight missed game.

What to know about LIU from their last game

– LIU evened their NEC record at 1-1 with a 76-67 win at Central Connecticut State Monday night and ended a three-game road trip that took them from Massachusetts to Maryland and then back up to Connecticut.

– Jerome Frink led LIU with 19 points on 9 of 16 shooting, his eighth straight double figure scoring game. The game did break his double-double streak at two.

– Martin Hermannsson finished with 17 points, 6 assists and 3 steals. He now has four straight double-digit scoring games and has scored in double figures in all but one game this season.

– Aakim Saintil broke out of this recent scoring funk with 16 points vs CCSU. He did on only eight shots and also dished out five assists. It was his first zero foul game of the season.  In fact, it was his first game in which he had less than three fouls in a game this season.

– LIU offensively broke a string of four straight games scoring less than a point per possession with a 1..065 ppp game vs CCSU.

– Nura Zanna grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds vs CCSU.

KenPom Prediction: LIU Brooklyn, 75-70

Next Game: St. Francis U. @ LIU Brooklyn  – Saturday, January 7th – Tip is scheduled for 4:30pm after the women’s basketball game. Game can be seen on NEC Front Row.

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