Pitt Basketball: Colonials hope winning streak stands against Panthers
Pitt's Gilbert Brown guards Robert Morris' Gary Wallace, right, in Pitt's 92-72 victory on Feb. 2, 2009.
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Robert Morris owns one of the nation's longest winning streaks in Division I men's basketball. The Colonials have won nine consecutive games to assume control of the Northeast Conference.
But when Robert Morris visits Pitt tonight, the Colonials will be looking to put an end to a long losing streak against the No. 22 Panthers.
Pitt has never lost to Robert Morris in 27 meetings. What's more is that the Panthers have rarely been challenged by the Colonials, winning the past nine games in the series by an average of almost 24 points per game.
Last season, Robert Morris won the NEC and advanced to the NCAA tournament, but the Colonials still lost to Pitt by 20.
"We're not exactly going to be favored at the University of Pittsburgh," said Robert Morris coach Mike Rice, who served as an assistant coach under Pitt coach Jamie Dixon during the 2006-07 season.
Matchup: Robert Morris (16-8) vs. Pitt (17-6), 8 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.
TV, Radio, Internet: FSN, WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970), www.pittsburghpanthers.com.
Pitt: Coming off 83-58 victory against Seton Hall. ... Junior F Gil Brown scored 23 points against the Pirates and has been Pitt's leading scorer in two of the past three games. ... Junior G Brad Wanamaker had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists against Seton Hall. ... Junior C Gary McGhee recorded his third double-double of the season against the Pirates with 12 points and 11 rebounds. ... Was 9-2 against non-conference opponents in November and December.
Robert Morris: Coming off a 75-63 victory against Saint Francis, Pa. ... Led by G Karon Abraham (12.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg), F Rob Robinson (9.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and G Mezie Nwigwe (9.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg). ... Played one other Big East team this season, a 100-60 loss at Syracuse in the season opener. ... Coach Mike Rice is in his third season as the Colonials head coach.
Hidden stat: Pitt is 66-0 all time against teams from the Northeast Conference.
But the Colonials do have the Panthers' attention. Pitt's players keep tabs on the players they compete against during the summer in pickup games, and they are well aware of Robert Morris' long winning streak.
"Robert Morris is a good team," Pitt senior Jermaine Dixon said. "They're winning their conference. They're an NCAA tournament team. They're in Pittsburgh so they're going to play us hard. And it is a quick turnaround."
Both teams played and won their games Saturday night. Pitt defeated Seton Hall, 83-58, to snap a two-game losing streak. Robert Morris topped Saint Francis (Pa.), 75-63, at the Sewall Center for its ninth consecutive victory in conference play. The victory marked the third consecutive season that the Colonials have won at least nine games in a row.
"They're a very experienced team," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "They have a bunch of seniors, guys we're familiar with. I know how important the game is for them and how important it is for us. It will be a very important game for both teams."
It is the final non-conference game for both teams. For Pitt, it comes as the Panthers appear to be working their way out of some offensive doldrums that were a big factor in the team losing four of five before the Seton Hall game.
Against Seton Hall, the Panthers busted out for a season high in points and tied its season high for margin of victory.
For Robert Morris, the Pitt game can serve as a barometer of sorts as the team prepares for another potential NCAA tournament appearance. The Colonials played two teams from major conferences in November.
In the season opener, Syracuse beat the Colonials, 100-60. Five days later, the Colonials traveled to Penn State and lost, 80-61.
Should the Colonials make the NCAA tournament again, their opponent in the first round would likely be from a major conference and of similar caliber as Pitt.
Freshman guard Karon Abraham said he believes the Colonials have a better chance of beating Pitt than Syracuse.
"Everybody knows their role now," Abraham said. "We're together. We don't break down anymore. And we've played under pressure."
Freshman guard Velton Jones said he and his teammates relish the opportunity to compete against teams from the Big East, which is considered the best conference in Division I this season.
"Playing a Big East team is pretty big," Jones said. "I think a lot of people are really looking forward to it."
Robert Morris has had a few encouraging moments in recent years against Pitt. In the game last season at the Petersen Events Center, the Colonials cut Pitt's lead to 11 with 6:33 remaining. In 2006-07, the Colonials lost, 67-53, a final score that represents the smallest margin of defeat in the series within the past decade.
Rice was asked what would be considered a success against Pitt.
"Competing and winning is the ultimate success," Rice said. "That's how I do every game. Did you compete? Did you win?"
First Published February 8, 2010 12:00 am