Pitt, Penn State meet on court for first time since 2005
December 2, 2013 11:24 PM
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Pitt freshman Michael Young is too young to remember the rivalry with Penn State, but he looks forward to helping to revive it.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pitt versus Penn State in any sport often used to spark memories among Western Pennsylvanians of a bitter football rivalry between the schools less than three hours apart.
The operative phrase, however, is "used to," as the two stopped playing each other in football in 2000 and have seemingly played each other less and less in the other sports since that rivalry ended.
That point probably was best illustrated Sunday when Pitt freshman Michael Young, who grew up in Duquesne, was asked what the rivalry between Pitt and Penn State meant to him growing up and what memories he has of some those classic football games.
"To be honest, I'm a little too young to remember them playing each other," Young said with a laugh. "I mean, it has been a long time, right?"
Young and his teammates will get an opportunity to experience, at least on some level, the Pitt-Penn State rivalry firsthand tonight when the two meet at Petersen Events Center in the ACC/Big Ten challenge.
Matchup: Pitt (7-0) vs. Penn State (6-2), 7:30 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.
TV, Radio: ESPNU; KDKA-FM (93.7).
Pitt: Is 7-0 for eighth time in past 13 seasons. ... Has won five in a row against Penn State. ... Has not played Penn State since 2005. ... F Lamar Patterson was named ACC player of the week. He averaged 21.7 points in wins against Texas Tech, Stanford and Duquesne. ... G Cameron Wright has 45 points in past three games.
Penn State: Leads all-time series, 75-70. ... Is 5-7 in ACC/Big Ten challenge, but 4-2 in past six challenge games. ... In 2010, became first Big Ten team to win three consecutive games in ACC challenge. ... Senior Gs D.J. Newbill (19.5 ppg) and Tim Frazier (18.5 ppg) are leading scorers.
Hidden stat: Pitt has won past five meetings by an average of 25.8 points.
Pitt (7-0) has breezed through its schedule so far with relative ease, but Penn State (6-2) has played in a few tight games, including losses to Bucknell (90-80) and Mississippi (79-76).
This will be the first meeting between the Panthers and Nittany Lions since 2005, when then-Penn State coach Ed DeChellis decided to end the series because it had become lopsided in Pitt's favor.
The Panthers beat the Nittany Lions, 91-56, that year -- the largest margin of victory in series history and the fourth time in five years Pitt won by 22 points or more.
The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series, 75-70, but Pitt has won the past five games and is 8-3 against Penn State since 1980.
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, who was hired in 2011, has said he would like to see the series revived, and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon echoed that sentiment Sunday. But the reality is that it will take some work to resume the series regularly because of the way college basketball is scheduled.
Young, who was 6 when Pitt last played Penn State in football and 11 when they last played in basketball, said he can appreciate that the schools are close in proximity and are playing well right now.
"It does mean something for me to play against them. They are another local team like Duquesne, and that makes it a rivalry and they are a good team who is playing really well," Young said. "It should be a really fun game for us and a fun night for our fans. I don't think people realize how good they are, to be honest.
"And they have a local player and a friend of mine, [Shaler graduate] Geno Thorpe, so that makes it even more interesting and more like a rivalry kind of game. And the other thing is you have the ACC/Big Ten challenge, so it means something for conference pride, as well."
Young said he and Thorpe, who has appeared in all eight games and is averaging 1.9 points in seven minutes per game, were teammates with the Pittsburgh Storm AAU team in seventh and eighth grade and at Shady Side Academy in ninth grade.
"I know Geno well. I consider him like my brother," Young said. "And we are both competitors, so I'm sure he wants to beat me just like I want to beat him. But it is all in good fun."
Although Thorpe is the only local player on Penn State's roster, the two who will get the most attention from the Panthers are guards D.J. Newbill (19.5 points, 6.9 rebounds per game) and Tim Frazier (18.5 ppg, 7.5 assists per game).
Young said Newbill and Frazier form one of the best backcourts in the country and will provide a stiff test for Pitt's perimeter defense.
"The thing you see right away is that they have great guard play," Young said. "Those two guys are both averaging a lot of points and are really difficult to defend. They are experienced and know how to play. They are leaders on their team and they score for their team.
"They can shoot it, they take good shots and their ability to score the basketball makes it so you have to be able to account for them and know where they are at every possession."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.
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