Robert Morris to host Kentucky in NIT first-round game

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With its loss to Mount St. Mary's in the semifinals of the Northeast Conference tournament, Robert Morris saw its primary goal of making the NCAA tournament vanish.

As fate would have it, the Colonials' consolation prize has turned out not to be too bad.

Already guaranteed a spot in the National Invitation Tournament from its regular-season Northeast Conference championship, it was announced Sunday that Robert Morris will host defending national champion Kentucky in a first-round game.

"It will be an incredible environment, a great experience and it will be an experience that our players will remember for the rest of their lives," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said.

The game is scheduled to take place Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Sewall Center on the Robert Morris campus.

The arrangement is a product of a unique set of circumstances that has effectively forced the Wildcats, a No. 1 seed in the tournament, to play a road game. Kentucky's home venue, Rupp Arena, is hosting second and third-round games in the NCAA tournament beginning Thursday, with teams using the court days earlier for practice.

The Wildcats (21-11) had to replace all five starters from their 2011-12 team that won the national championship. While already having to rely on freshmen and inexperienced players, the team was dealt a tough setback when star center Nerlens Noel suffered a season-ending ACL tear Feb. 12 at Florida.

Kentucky coach John Calipari is a Moon Township native.

Toole knows that the opportunity to host such a vaunted program is a rare one, but it's one he said won't get the better of his players.

"We've played a lot of good players before," Toole said. "It's not like we haven't played high-major schools, it's not like we haven't played future pros before. We've had those kind of experiences. Our guys won't be wide-eyed."

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