Panthers Familiar With RMU

Panthers look to go 6-0 against a Robert Morris team that is coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.

Coming off wins over Maryland and a nationally-ranked Texas program at the 2K Sports Classic/Coaches vs. Cancer, coming back to Pittsburgh to take on Robert Morris from a non-BCS conference might look like a trap game.

A lot of the players on both teams are very familiar with each other, and in some cases the familiarity goes beyond playing summer league basketball together. As a result, instead of a starry-eyed team coming in from a place like UIC-Chicago or North Florida, Pitt has to prepare for this game just as they would a Big East game.

"Summer league and (regular season) are two different places," forward Nasir Robinson said. "You can play good in summer league, then when people's games come out in summer league, and here because you're in your offense, you have a system. You have to come out and play hard."

Robinson's high school teammate Russell Johnson is a starting forward for the Colonials where he is the team's leading rebounder (8.0/game) and second-leading scorer (12.8). In high school, Johnson and Robinson were on the same Chester High School team that captured a Quad-A state championship in 2008, and both graduated that same season. The two have remained close being in the same city, but playing for different college basketball teams.

Both relish the opportunity to play against each other every year.

"We talk every other week," Robinson said. "Russell and I grew up together. We're from the same area; Chester, PA. We've been playing with each other for a long time. We communicate a lot."

Communicating a lot is an understatement. On Friday night, one of the first text messages Robinson read was one from Johnson, where he told his former Chester teammate that his Colonials beat Duquesne, 69-63. Robinson enjoyed texting him back, informing him of Pitt beating Texas, and capturing the championship of the 2K Sports Classic.

"They're really confident," Robinson said. "(Friday), he sent me a text, and said, ‘We just beat Duquesne, and you're next.' I guess they're real confident. We just have to come out here and do business.

"It's big. Robert Morris and those Duquesne guys, I guess they know that Pitt is the main attraction. I guess those guys are going to come out and try to do what they have to do to beat us, people will have something to talk about."

Travon Woodall and Karon Benjamin will match up at some point on Tuesday night. Benjamin is the Colonials' leading scorer through three games ((14.0 ppg). When Woodall moved from Brooklyn to Paterson, New Jersey growing up, Benjamin--also a native of Paterson--was one of the first people he met. Woodall lived with his godparents in Paterson; Jorge and Samar Fontan. Jorge was Abraham's coach for awhile.

"His brother was one of my closest friends," Woodall said. "(Karon) was so small. All he could do was just shoot. I can't believe how big and how much stronger he's gotten. His game has improved. My godfather actually coached him. I've known (Karon) for awhile, since he was in fifth grade. I watched him grow throughout the years, and he turned out to be a tremendous player."

Woodall agrees that with players like Johnson and Abraham, and coming off a big win over Duquesne, the Colonials aren't just coming in here to roll over and lose.

"They've always been a confident team, and that showed in the (NCAA) tournament last year when they played Villanova," Woodall said. "They just want to go out and compete every night and play hard."


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