Rice Preparing for Pittsburgh Homecoming

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Mike Rice has already made the trip once as the Rutgers basketball head coach, and is looking for similar results tomorrow against Pittsburgh. Rice returns home to Pittsburgh, where he lived for four years as an assistant and head coach, for the second time since taking over the Rutgers program two years ago.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers coach Mike Rice made his first homecoming to Pittsburgh a successful one when he beat Auburn, 63-54, last season in the SEC/Big East Invitational.

Playing a game in Pittsburgh for the second time since taking over the Rutgers program, this time Rice travels to face former mentor Jamie Dixon. Before Rice became the head coach at nearby Robert Morris, he had his final assistant job for one year under Dixon at Pitt.

"It means that I know their system a little bit better and it means that they probably know my system a little bit better," Rice said. "I do some things that I learned from Jamie."

The return to Pittsburgh will not be a sentimental one, Rice said.

"I was there last year," Rice said. "It's my hometown, I get to see my sister and my friends and relatives, but, to me, it's another road trip."

In their first master vs. apprentice matchup, Dixon came out on top with a 65-62 victory over Rice last year at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

In the game, Pitt improved to 20-2 on the season compliments of 24 points from Ashton Gibbs. For Rutgers, a Robert Lumpkins layup with 21 seconds left made it a one-point game, but a missed three-pointer at the buzzer from forward Dane Miller ended the game.

"There's no difference," Rice said on games against Dixon. "I want to beat them as much as I want to beat UConn and West Virginia or Seton Hall."

Pittsburgh entered last year's game with a 19-2 record and a 7-1 conference record. This year, however, the Panthers are not playing nearly as well.

Facing a Rutgers team (9-7, 1-2), the Panthers (11-5, 0-3) are in last in the conference and trying to rebound from an embarrassing loss to DePaul.

"Every Big East team is desperate," Rice said. "... [But] Pitt's never 0-3. You can't worry about how desperate [or] what the other team did in the last game. You worry about the preparation that goes into trying to win a Big East game."

In an interesting twist, Rice is not only returning home to Pittsburgh, but to Robert Morris as well.

Going directly from Pittsburgh to West Virginia, Rutgers needed a place to practice Thursday and found one in Robert Morris.

"It'll be fun," Rice said. "I'm sure my guys will be lining the court, just the Robert Morris players. It will be good to see them, but again, it's a business trip."

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