Robert Morris basketball feeling confident despite mark vs. Pitt
Pitt's Cameron Wright, left, and Penn's Zack Rosen scrap for a loose ball Friday night. Jamie Dixon has re-emphasized play on the defensive end since the Panthers' upset loss to Long Beach State 10 days ago.
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Robert Morris has never beaten Pitt. Has never come all that close.
The record against the Panthers is 0-29 and the average margin of victory in the series is more than 20 points per game.
So why are the Colonials so confident that they can end the Pitt hex tonight at Petersen Events Center?
It could be the results of the Philly HoopGroup Classic. Robert Morris (4-1) and Pitt (4-1) played three common opponents in the six-team tournament that wraps up today in what amounts to a de facto championship game.
- Matchup: No. 17 Pitt (4-1) vs. Robert Morris (4-1), 5 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.
- TV, radio, Internet: Pitt Panthers Television (Comcast ch. 188), KDKA-FM (93.7), www.pittsburghpanthers.com.
- Pitt: Coming off 78-58 victory against Penn. ... Freshman C Khem Birch made his first career start and recorded his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. ... Sophomore F J.J. Moore made his first career start and scored 12 points with six rebounds. ... Moore will start again today because Lamar Patterson will serve the second game of a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules. ... 29-0 all time against Robert Morris. ... Has never lost to an opponent from the Northeast Conference.
- Robert Morris: Coming off 51-44 victory against La Salle. ... Beat the Explorers despite shooting 28 percent from the field. ... Led by junior G Velton Jones (20.8 ppg, 5.3 apg) and sophomore G Caron Williams (15.5 ppg, 2.0 apg).
- Hidden stat: Birch got his first double-double in his fifth career game; Dante Taylor has no double-doubles in 71 career games.
Judging by the final scores of two of those games it would appear that Robert Morris has reason to be feeling good about itself.
The Colonials beat Rider by 25 while the Panthers struggled to defeat the Broncs, winning by eight after trailing with less than five minutes remaining.
Robert Morris beat La Salle on the road by seven while Pitt could only manage a four-point victory against the Explorers at home.
OK, so Robert Morris lost at Penn by six while the Panthers beat the Quakers by 20. Nonetheless, the Colonials believe they can be something other than fodder for the Panthers this time around.
"We're excited," said Velton Jones, Robert Morris' leading scorer. "We feel like going into Pitt, we're going into the game with a positive feeling, like we're going to win the game."
Robert Morris knows well of Pitt's early season struggles. The Colonials watched Long Beach State upset the Panthers at Petersen Events Center. Coach Andy Toole said after the Colonials beat La Salle Friday night that his players are "inundated" with information on Pitt basketball.
Robert Morris knows Pitt's strengths and weaknesses better than any other team on the non-conference schedule along with Duquesne. The Colonials and Panthers compete with and against one another in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am every summer.
"I know Jamie is upset with his defensive effort right now," Toole said. "The little bit I have seen [of Pitt] it looks like they're sharing the ball. It looks like they're maybe not completing plays as much as they used to. I know that he's looking for some guys to provide a spark off the bench. Hopefully, with some of our depth and our experience, not only playing against them every single year but in the summer league, maybe we can do what we're supposed to do Sunday night."
The Panthers will be without starting small forward Lamar Patterson. He is sitting out the second game of a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
The Panthers also could be without starting center Dante Taylor, who missed the Penn game because of migraine headaches. Taylor was hit in the neck area in the La Salle game Tuesday night and is questionable for the game.
J.J. Moore and Khem Birch stepped in and played well in their absence. In his first career start, Birch had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Moore had 12 points and six rebounds.
Robert Morris is a deep and scrappy team that will be looking to take advantage of Pitt's momentary lack of manpower. The Colonials beat La Salle despite a 28 percent shooting effort. They were able to win because they outrebounded the Explorers, 45-30.
Pitt has not been a strong rebounding team to date. The Panthers have been outrebounded in two of their past three games. Long Beach State (29-26) and Penn (32-30) controlled the boards in those recent matchups.
"Rebounding doesn't always have to do with muscle or size," Toole said. "A lot of it is just effort. We work on drills that make these guys pursue the ball. We'll throw one, two or three balls up there and they have to go get it, never stop, never relax. There's always another play you can make for your team. That's kind of our mentality rebounding-wise. All five guys get to the glass. It's something we work on, something we try to recruit because we have guys who are relentless."
First Published November 27, 2011 12:00 am