Moon Township, Pa. - Robert Morris University coach Andrew Toole might feel a bit like Don and Phil Everly these days.
You remember Don and Phil, right? They had a hit record in 1958 called "Problems.''
"Problems, problems,'' Don and Phil sang in their wonderful harmony. "Problems all day long.''
Toole and his team have had problems all season long, beginning when senior center Lijah Thompson went down for the season because of a knee injury.
Those personnel problems intensified in early January and have not eased. And they struck again Wednesday night when the Colonials played Saint Francis University at the Charles L. Sewall Center.
First, junior forward Mike McFadden wasn't in uniform because of personal reasons.
That was a problem for RMU's inside game.
Second, it became apparent not long into the game that senior point guard Velton Jones, who was in uniform but who didn't start, wasn't going to play because of a sore right shoulder.
That was a problem for the Colonials period.
Third, backup point guard Anthony Myers-Pate missed most of the second half because of a possible concussion.
"A very well-earned and hard-fought win,'' Toole said after the Colonials improved their overall record to 16-8 and their Northeast Conference mark to 8-3. "I was excited about the way the team worked together and carried out our game plan and continued to try and figure things out on the fly as we kind of had to adjust to certain things at times. I'm proud of them for that.''
In the aftermath, the question is: How many of those three will be able to play Saturday night when Wagner visits the Sewall Center for a rather significant NEC game?
Myers-Pate's availability is definitely an issue. Jones missed the Sacred Heart game Jan. 17 because of a similar head injury.
"Mike's a member of the team. He's a valued member of the team,'' Toole said. "He just had some personal things that he needed to take care of and figure out. We look forward to having him back. It will be when he's ready, but we're hopeful, and his teammates are hopeful, that's as soon as possible.''
Then there's Jones, who played only two minutes at St. Francis Brooklyn, Jan. 31, before going down with a shoulder sprain. He did play valiantly in RMU's win at LIU Brooklyn last Saturday and, oh, by the way, did make the go-ahead field goal with 10 seconds remaining.
"He was very, very sore on Monday when we came to practice,'' Toole said. "His range-of-motion wasn't entirely there. The trainers and the doctors felt that getting him healthy is most important. Could he have (played Wednesday night)? Probably. How effective would he have been? Not very. If he continues to get it knocked around and bumped, it's never really going to have the opportunity to heal. So we were cautious and smart with him.''
"I've decided it's never going to happen. Maybe next season,'' he said. "Yes, it would be great. I would really, really enjoy it. I think our staff would enjoy it. But what fun would that be?''
Indeed. After all, if old Don and Phil hadn't had all those problems back in the day, they wouldn't have that hit record.
But we digress. And, again, after all ...
"I can't really worry about it too much. I can't control it,'' Toole said.
Not that it isn't an annoyance.
"I do get (perturbed),'' Toole said. "But then I have to realize what's important, and that's trying to figure out how to get the guys together so that we can win a game.''
"(Coach) Toole talks about adversity,'' Myers-Pate said. "We're going to have to face adversity every day. We just have to overcome it. That's life. Everything's not always going to go right. But the game's still got to be played. If somebody's missing, the next man has to step up.''
"If somebody goes down, it's another opportunity for another guy to step in and give us a spark,'' Lucky Jones said. "At the end of the day, we have to play the game.''
"It's different (without Velton Jones),'' Anderson said. "Coron and I have to take ownership of that role. I've done it before in my career, and I feel comfortable handling the ball. I know the offense. I feel I can handle it. It's not really a big difference. We just have to have somebody keep controlling the offense. We have multiple guards who can do that.''
"We all can play every position,'' Lucky Jones said. "It's just like any other game. We just went out and played hard (Wednesday night) and got the W.''
In McFadden's stead, inexperienced sophomore Keith Armstrong and freshman Stephan Hawkins handled the bulk of the inside duties. The 6'9" Hawkins figures to get more playing time than Armstrong, who missed much of the first half of the season while recovering from a foot problem (dang, there's that word again).
It's no small thing for the Colonials that Hawkins seems much more comfortable playing now than he did in, oh, say, early December.
"Night and day,'' Toole said when asked the difference between Hawkins now and back then.
Hawkins against Saint Francis University played 23 minutes, tying his season high. He scored four points, grabbed a couple rebounds, blocked three shots and had no turnovers.
"Hawk had to step up, which he did,'' Lucky Jones said. "He had a terrific game.''
"It's just getting used to the formula offensively and defensively as the year goes on,'' Hawkins said of his rising confidence level. "It's more (on the) offensive (end). You have to memorize so many plays. In high school, we didn't run that many plays. And having my teammates' support helps as well.''
"He's come a very long way,'' Lucky Jones said. "We all still have a lot of improving to do, and as long as he's staying around us and enjoying himself around the team, focusing on the plays, focusing on the defensive formula, he'll be fine.''
"He wants to work hard. He wants to get better,'' Anderson said. "Sometimes being a freshman, especially being the only freshman on this type of team in this type of program, can get overwhelming. He handles it very well. He's grown. He's matured as a player and as an individual, and it's nice to see. He has a lot of potential, and I'm glad to see that he's working toward it.''
"He still has some moments like when you draw up a play at the timeout and you're going out on defense and he goes down to the offensive end to stand at his spot,'' Toole said. "We had to keep a close eye on him in Brooklyn because we weren't sure he was going to make it across the streets. We had to huddle around him.
"But, really, (Hawkins' improvement is) night and day. I think the speed of the game is the biggest thing that he's starting to figure out. I think he's also starting to figure out that he's tall, and he's doing a really nice job of using his length to be able to make shots difficult (for the opponents) and then really fighting to get in there and rebound. It will be a really good indication Saturday how he bounces back from Wednesday to Saturday. He played excellently for us (Wednesday night). I think now is the time for him as a freshman to be able to put back-to-back games together where he's able to absorb the scouting report and is able to focus on the things that are important.''
All of this brings to mind one more line from old Don and Phil in that 1958 tune in which they wonder: "Will my problems work out right or wrong?''
So far, for Andy and the Colonials, their problems have worked out right.
ANDERSON ON THE APPLE: Before the Colonials' trip to Brooklyn last weekend, Anderson said he looked forward to the trip because he'd never been to New York City.
UP NEXT: The Colonials' game with Wagner Saturday night is another tie-breaker tilt - should that come into play in the NEC Tournament - because it's the teams' only regular-season meeting this season.
Like Robert Morris, the Seahawks have had to play short-handed at times this season. Only four Seahawks - Kenny Ortiz, Orlando Parker, Josh Thompson and Dwaun Anderson - have played in each of Wagner's 22 games.
Wagner (13-9, 7-4) beat visiting Mount St. Mary's, 74-65, Wednesday night, the Seahawks' fourth win in a five-game stretch as they try to position themselves for a run at the regular-season championship and top seed in the NEC tourney.
"I don't know if most coaches do this, but I'm extremely open and honest with my guys about where we are in the standings,'' Wagner coach Bashir Mason told the Staten Island Advance. "We're playing to go to the NCAA tourney because in a wide-open league like the NEC, anybody can win it. Some coaches think that's maybe putting pressure on your kids, but I just want to give them a feel for exactly where we are and what we have a chance to do if we play well.''
Against the Mountaineers, Wagner zipped to a 19-7 lead in the first nine minutes and was never seriously threatened. The Seahawks made their final field goal with 5:34 left and took only three more shots from the field. They prevented any hope Mount St. Mary's had down the stretch by making 10 consecutive free throw attempts in the final 1:13.
Johnathon Williams scored 19 points for Wagner. Latif Rivers added 17 points.
Perhaps the sight of the Seahawks at the Sewall Center for a regular-season game will help the Colonials' Williams. The last time Robert Morris played Wagner at home in a regular-season game Feb. 26, 2011, Williams scored 26 points, making nine of 10 from the field, including five of six from deep.
Williams has gone six consecutive games without reaching double figures - his longest stretch in that category since an eight-game dry spell in 2011 - and has scored only 29 points in his last seven games. In that seven-game span, he's 9-for-41 from the field and 4-of-22 from beyond the arc.
NEC NUGGETS: Lucky Jones had a perfect night from the floor for RMU, making all three of his field goal attempts and going 13-for-13 from the free throw line. His free throw accuracy established a Sewall Center record for most free throws without a miss by a Colonial in a game. The overall record is a 17-for-17 performance by Mike Iuzzolino of Saint Francis University, Jan. 19, 1991, in an 87-85 Colonial win ... Mount St. Mary's was just 9-for-30 from deep at Wagner ... Bryant (16-6, 9-2) remained in first place Thursday night by stopping visiting St. Francis Brooklyn, 84-77. Dyami Starks led the Bulldogs with 25 points, while Alex Francis contributed 23 and Frankie Dobbs scored 12 points and dished 13 assists ... Sacred Heart led visiting Fairleigh Dickinson just 73-70 with 16 seconds remaining but made four throws thereafter and thwarted the Knights' upset bid, 77-70. Shane Gibson led the Pioneers with 27 points, including 18 in the second half. Melquan Bolding's 16-10 double-double was a bright spot in FDU's eighth consecutive loss ... LIU Brooklyn won at Central Connecticut State, 81-75. The Blackbirds' Jamal Olasewere had a 15-10 double-double by halftime and finished 25-14, making 12 of his 13 field goal attempts. Jason Brickman had 12 assists. Matt Hunter had a 25-11 double-double for the Blue Devils. Kyle Vinales added 13 points but was just five of 18 from the floor ... Quinnipiac shot 58.6 percent from the field and had no trouble handing visiting Monmouth its fourth straight defeat, 79-63. Ike Azotam and Shaq Shannon each scored 18 points for the Bobcats, who host RMU next Thursday night.