Preview: RMU hosts Pitt for inaugural basketball game at UPMC Events Center

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Preview: RMU hosts Pitt for inaugural basketball game at UPMC Events Center

MOON TOWNSHIP — The RMU men’s basketball team celebrates after a made three-pointer against Sacred Heart (Samuel Anthony/RMU Sentry Media).

MOON TOWNSHIP — The RMU men’s basketball team celebrates after a made three-pointer against Sacred Heart (Samuel Anthony/RMU Sentry Media).

MOON TOWNSHIP — The RMU men’s basketball team celebrates after a made three-pointer against Sacred Heart (Samuel Anthony/RMU Sentry Media).

MOON TOWNSHIP — The RMU men’s basketball team celebrates after a made three-pointer against Sacred Heart (Samuel Anthony/RMU Sentry Media).

Austin Bechtold, Contributor

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MOON TOWNSHIP– The Robert Morris men’s basketball team (0-2) opens play at the new UPMC Events Center this Tuesday night. The team hosts the Pitt Panthers (1-1) for the first game in their new home. Both teams are coming off tough losses and look to bounce back with a victory in this highly anticipated match-up.

Recapping RMU

The Colonials come home after two hard defeats, both in two different ways. The team dropped the season opener on the road on Thursday at Marshall (1-1), losing a back and forth affair 67-60. RMU then traveled to South Bend on Saturday afternoon to take on Notre Dame (1-1), where the Fighting Irish crushed the Colonials 92-57. If Robert Morris is going to pull off the upset Tuesday night, they will need to play better as a team and take care of the ball. The atmosphere will be on their side and should be able to thrive on it early on.

Previewing Pittsburgh

The Panthers have had an eventful start to the 2019-20 season. Pitt opened up the renovated Petersen Events Center with a nail-biting 63-61 victory over the Florida State Seminoles (1-1). They followed up the win with a head-turning upset loss to Nicholls State (1-1) from the Southwest Conference. The Panthers’ overall play was very lackluster, shooting 25% from three and committing 21 turnovers. Pitt will enter the UPMC Events Center with a focused attitude and mindset to play up to their standards and overall team potential in their first game away from home.

Players to Watch

Josh Williams (RMU)

The redshirt senior is averaging 17.0 points per game in his final season with the Colonials, only a small sample size, Williams also leads the team in minutes per game with 34. Look for the RMU playmaking guard to be the go-to option all game long.

Yannis Mendy (RMU)

Mendy, a senior forward from France, also enters his final season in only his second year with the program. After only averaging 5.7 points per game last season, Mendy has provided added scoring, averaging 11.0 points in two games. Mendy will be leaned on to provide a defensive presence in the paint and use his 6’8’’ frame in the rebounding department.

Xavier Johnson (Pitt)

The 6’3’’ sophomore, Johnson, looks to improve on an impressive freshman season with the Panthers in 2018-19. The young guard averaged 15.5 points per game last season but has struggled early on in 2019-20. Johnson will be the primary ball-handler for Pitt all game long and will look to use his playmaking and ability to push the ball quickly up the court to spark the Panthers offensive attack.

Ryan Murphy (Pitt)

Murphy has quickly become the best player on the Panthers roster early on this season. The junior guard transferred to Pitt from New Mexico JC, becoming the leader of this young Pitt team with only two other upperclassmen seeing time on the court. Murphy leads the Panthers with 20 points a game and is shooting 54% from three in the early going of the season.

Prediction

The Colonials and Panthers will battle it out in a raucous atmosphere inside the UPMC Events Center. Pitt may have been looking ahead to RMU with their loss to Nicholls State, but even though this is highly unlikely, they will be prepared and ready to go for Tuesday’s match-up. The Panthers receive 20 point performances from both Johnson and Murphy and after a back and forth game take a commanding lead after halftime.

Prediction: Pitt 70-56

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