No. 6 Pittsburgh apparently had nothing to gain against the Colonials, while RMU had a chance to play another tough non-conference opponent to go with matchups against Rutgers, Miami, Duquesne and Xavier to build its credentials for the season.
However, even after Pitt stomped RMU 92-72 Monday night at the Petersen Events Center, Panthers coach Jamie Dixon praised former assistant Mike Rice in his second season with the Colonials. Rice spent the 2006-07 season at Pitt.
"Well, obviously, a good win for us against an NCAA-Tournament team,'' Dixon said. "It's a team that I think will run away with their league. They have been, and it's good to see that they were every bit as good as we anticipated. They obviously shot the ball every well, and I thought we did some very good things.''
RMU shot 52 percent from the field in the first half and kicked that up several notches to 63.6 percent in the second half, but still trailed 53-33 at halftime. The Panthers threatened to surpass their season-high in points, the 93 scored just two days earlier against Notre Dame. And even had enough time to reach the century mark, but just didn't make enough shots down the stretch.
Still, Pitt shot 66.7 percent from the field in the first half, including a near-perfect 13-for-17 start, and finished at 55.4 percent shooting. Senior forward Sam Young led the way with 23 points and six rebounds, while sophomore center DeJuan Blair added 18 with eight boards (six offensive).
"We just did a good job moving the ball around and got a lot of open shots quickly by pushing the ball,'' senior point guard Levance Fields said. "You can't overlook any team, but games like this can be a trap game. For the most part, I think we handled it real well. And we did a pretty good overall job.''
Fields tallied 12 points and 13 assists, while junior guard Jermaine Dixon had 15 points (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) for the Panthers (20-2, 7-2 Big East). Young is Pitt's leading scorer at 18.1 points per game, but he cooled recently and had just five against Notre Dame. Against RMU, he shot 8-for-11 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.
"I don't play zone, so you've got to go one-on-one against somebody, and ... they have more guys now who can shoot,'' Rice said. "Two years ago, we had a really good team (29-8 and lost to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen), but they just have more guys to make buckets this year.
"You can pick your poison, but ... they just have more scorers, more guys to put the ball in the basket. And I think that's the ultimate cure for every situation. (So), they're just a deeper scoring team.''
Robert Morris, which is 0-27 all-time against Pitt, was within 24-22 midway through the first half. But the Panthers went on a 29-11 run before the break to take over the game. Pitt scored a season-high 53 first-half points and has scored 185 points the past two games.
The Colonials led with 13 minutes left in the two team's most recent meeting, Nov. 29, 2006, but the Panthers won that one going away, too. Jeremy Chappell had 19 points and added a team-high eight assists for the Colonials (15-8, 9-1 in the NEC), who had a nine-game winning streak snapped. Rob Robinson had 15 points and Francisco Bateko 13 for RMU, which committed 19 turnovers and had only two offensive rebounds.
Pitt is 66-0 against teams from the Northeast Conference. Robert Morris, a school located in Moon Township (suburban Pittsburgh). The Panthers ended their non-conference schedule 13-0, marking the third time in the program's history it went undefeated there. Each occurred in the past six seasons.
No. 6 Pitt 92, RMU 72
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