Robert Morris quickly sells out NIT game against Kentucky

The young man running along the basketball court in the gym at Robert Morris University on Monday was intent on scoring two.

"Are they sold out?" he breathlessly asked.

Unfortunately for him, they were.

Less than three hours after tickets to tonight's college basketball game between Robert Morris and the University of Kentucky went on sale, athletic department employees were taping "sold out" signs on all the doors.

The gymnasium at the Charles L. Sewall Center in Moon usually holds 3,056 for a Colonials basketball game. But with the defending NCAA champion Wildcats coming to town for a first-round game in the National Invitation Tournament, officials are finding a way to squeeze in as many as 3,500 fans.

The tickets -- priced at $5 for students and as low as $15 for the general public -- went fast.

"I've never seen anything like it -- not like this," said Marty Galosi, the university's associate athletic director. "This is beyond, beyond, beyond capacity. It's gotten to the point where we just don't have any more room.

"But this is Kentucky. I mean, there's nothing else you need to say."

The Wildcats are used to playing in sold-out Rupp Arena, which seats 23,500. They're also used to playing in the NCAA tournament, the big dance that determines college basketball's national champion.

Robert Morris has never hosted a postseason game.

Jennifer Ross, 19, from Ligonier, and her friend, Courtney Kern, 19, from Avella, are freshmen on the RMU rowing team. They've attended several basketball games this season and decided to get tickets for this game as soon as it was announced Sunday night.

"I just think it's a huge thing for us to be there and support our school, because the boys need it," said Miss Kern, who stood in line for the pair. "When it's crazy, they seem to have a faster pace and do better."

"It shows that everyone supports all the sports teams. We're all one big team," Miss Ross said.

"It's especially big because it's Kentucky," Miss Kern said. "It's definitely exciting to know a bigger school that you always see on TV is coming here, to a school that is not too well known."

Doug Zalla, 48, a marketing executive from Upper St. Clair, had never been to a basketball game in the cozy confines of the Sewall Center. But he made sure he was on campus Monday morning.

"I'm actually a Kentucky fan," said Mr. Zalla, who bought four tickets. "I like Robert Morris, but we lived in Lexington for 10 years before we moved here five years ago. It should be a great venue to see the game in."

Brady Karolak, 21, a senior studying marketing and management, learned a tough lesson when he arrived at the athletic department.

"I had class this morning, and by the time I got here they were sold out," he said. "And I know it's going to be awesome. I've been to games, and the camaraderie is great, even if we lose. Everyone's still cheering and having a good time. It will be sheer chaos. I wish I could go."

Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. game were so precious that even Wildcats coach John Calipari -- who grew up in Moon -- bemoaned their scarcity. Kentucky was allotted only 150 tickets.

"I've had people calling me, 'We can't get tickets. Do you have tickets?' " he said in a Monday morning news conference. "I got 10 tickets."

The coach also took a moment to deny having any involvement in choosing the game's location. Kentucky officials said they could not host the game, but beyond that, Mr. Calipari said, he knew nothing about it.

"If I did have something to do with it, I would've said, 'Let's play Robert Morris at their place,' " he said. "It'll be a great thing for them, and hopefully it'll be a terrific game."

neigh_west - rmusports

Dan Majors: or 412-263-1456. First Published March 19, 2013 4:00 AM


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