Robert Morris (0-1) @ Penn State (1-0)
Monday, Nov. 16, 2009 / 7:30 p.m.
Bryce Jordan Center (15,261) - University Park, Pa.
Top Story - The Robert Morris University men’s basketball team continues its five-game swing away from the Charles L. Sewall Center to open its 2009-10 campaign by visiting University Park, Pa., for a 7:30 p.m. tip against Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Colonials fell to 17-17 (.500) all-time in season openers, including a mark of 1-2 (.333) under third-year head coach Mike Rice, with a 100-60 defeat @ No. 25 Syracuse (11/11/09) to open the season as part of the 2K Sports Classic, benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. RMU will close out that tournament with three games in three days in Albany, N.Y., after squaring off with the Nittany Lions, starting with a 5:00 p.m. tip against Detroit Mercy at SEFCU Arena Friday, Nov. 20. Robert Morris will close out the tourney with games against Alcorn State (11/21) and Albany (11/22).
Quick Stat of the Night - With two players making their first collegiate start and a total of six Colonials playing their first collegiate game in the 2009-10 season opener in the Carrier Dome @ No. 25 Syracuse (11/11/09), you could say nerves were a little frayed. The result? Robert Morris committed 28 turnovers against the Orange, with Syracuse turning those into 32 points. Almost half of those turnovers (13) came from Colonials playing their first collegiate game, including five by sophomore forward Russell Johnson and four by freshman forward Brad Piehl. The 28 turnovers are the most RMU has suffered in a game in three seasons under head coach Mike Rice. On the flipside, the Colonials forced the Orange into 23 turnovers, recording 15 steals, including four by sophomore guard Velton Jones.
Monday’s Opponent & the All-Time Series - Robert Morris and Penn State will tip for just the third time on the basketball floor Monday night, with the two programs having split the previous two meetings. RMU earned a 66-58 victory over the Nittany Lions in the inaugural game between the two teams Feb. 25, 1981, while Penn State earned a 76-59 win over the Colonials at the Bryce Jordan Center in the last contest Jan. 2, 2003.
RMU vs. Syracuse
Series Record - Tied, 1-1
First Meeting - 2/25/81; RMU, 66-58
Last Meeting - 1/2/03; Penn State, 76-59
Last RMU Win - 2/25/81; RMU, 66-58
Current Streak - Penn State, 1
Rice vs. Penn State - 0-0
Probable Starters (Robert Morris @ Penn State)
Robert Morris (0-0)
|1||F||Rob Robinson (6-8, 215, Sr.)||10.0||11.0||1/1||Waldorf, Md.|
|24||F||Dallas Green (6-8, 210, Sr.)||4.0||5.0||1/1||Indianapolis, Indiana|
|34||F||Russell Johnson (6-6, 180, So.)||2.0||2.0||1/1||Chester, Pa.|
|2||G||Mezie Nwigwe (6-4, 195, Sr.)||5.0||0.0||1/1||Hyattsville, Md.|
|3||G||Velton Jones (6-0, 170, So.)||15.0||1.0||1/1||Philadelphia, Pa.|
Penn State (1-0)
|15||F||David Jackson (6-7, 210, Jr.)||5.0||4.0||1/1||Farrell, Pa.|
|22||F||Andrew Jones (6-10, 245, Jr.)||4.0||5.0||1/1||Philadelphia, Pa.|
|25||F||Jeff Brooks (6-8, 200, Jr.)||10.0||1.0||1/1||Louisville, Ky.|
|10||G||Chris Babb (6-5, 215, So.)||8.0||4.0||1/1||Arlington, Texas|
|12||G||Talor Battle (6-0, 170, Jr.)||27.0||10.0||1/1||Albany, N.Y.|
Head Coach Mike Rice (Third Season; Fordham '91) - Simply put, Mike Rice has put the men’s basketball program at Robert Morris University back on the map.
Just 22 months after being named the seventh head coach in the 34-year history of the program, Rice led the Colonials to their sixth Northeast Conference Tournament championship with a thrilling 48-46 win over Mount St. Mary’s March 11, 2009, at the Charles L. Sewall Center. The win helped RMU earn its sixth automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and its first since 1992.
In three years as a head coach, Rice has been at the helm of a program that has claimed back-to-back NEC regular-season championships, its first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament in 2008 and the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Along the way, a total of 16 school records have either been tied or broken under Rice’s watch, including victories (26 in 2007-08), NEC wins (16 in 2007-08) and consecutive victories (14 in 2007-08). Robert Morris also posted 15 straight wins in NEC road games over the course of the last two seasons, a conference record.
The two-time reigning Northeast Conference Jim Phelan Coach of the Year, Rice owns an overall record of 50-20 (.714), including a mark 31-5 (.861) against league foes. He signed a three-year contract extension with Robert Morris in April, meaning he will lead the Colonials through the 2015-16 season.
Rice was named the seventh head coach in the 34-year Division I history of the program at a press conference in the Sewall Center on RMU’s Moon Township Campus April 26, 2007. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Rice has appeared in the NCAA or NIT Tournament seven times as an assistant coach and twice as the head coach at Robert Morris.
Rice brought to RMU a vast background in collegiate coaching, having served as an assistant coach at alma mater Fordham (1991-94), Marquette (1994-97), Niagara (1997-98), Chicago State (1998-2001), Saint Joseph’s (2004-06) and Pittsburgh (2006-07).
A 1991 graduate of Fordham, Rice was a three-year starter for the Rams at guard. He appeared in 117 career games, serving as team captain of a 1990-91 squad that posted an overall record of 25-8. That season Fordham earned an appearance in the NIT. Rice and his wife, Kerry, have two children, son Michael and daughter Katie, and reside in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Scouting the Nittany Lions - Penn State enters Monday’s game against Robert Morris coming off a 70-55 victory over Penn (11/13/09) to open its 2009-10 campaign. In that contest the Nittany Lions shot 48.1 percent (26-for-54) from the field while holding the Quakers to a shooting percentage of just 37.5 percent (18-for-48). Junior guard Talor Battle led PSU against Penn by posting his fifth career double-double with 27 points and 10 boards. He converted 11 of his 20 shots from the floor and also added four assists in the win. Battle averaged 16.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game last season, leading the Big Ten in scoring.
Penn State Head Coach - The 2009-10 campaign marks the seventh season for Ed DeChellis (Penn State ’82) as head coach of the Nittany Lions and his 14th season overall. He enters Monday’s game with an overall record of 190-196 (.492), including a mark of 85-103 (.452) at Penn State. Last season DeChellis led PSU to an overall record of 27-11 and the 2009 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship.
RMU’s Last Game - Robert Morris opened its 2009-10 campaign, Nov. 11, with a 100-60 loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in the 2K Sports Classic, benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. It marked the second straight season-opening loss for RMU as the Colonials fell to 0-1 while the Orange improved to 2-0. All five Syracuse starters scored in double figures while the Orange converted 58.3 percent (35-for-60) of their shots from the floor, including 50 percent (13-for-26) from beyond the arc. Robert Morris held an early 6-5 lead after senior forward Dallas Green hit the back end of a pair of free throws, but a 9-0 spurt that was bolstered by five points from Rick Jackson allowed Syracuse to open up a 15-6 advantage. The Colonials closed their deficit to 18-16 at the 11:20 mark of the first half thanks to a 10-3 surge that started with a layup off an offensive rebound from senior forward Rob Robinson and ended with a fastbreak layup from senior guard Mezie Nwigwe. Robinson scored four points during the run, while junior guard Gary Wallace converted a three-pointer. Robert Morris kept within striking distance, trailing, 24-21, with 8:34 remaining before halftime after a jumper from sophomore guard Velton Jones, but the Orange took control by scoring the next 13 points of the contest to open up a 37-21 advantage. Wes Johnson scored six points during the salvo, while Scoop Jardine added four points from the free-throw line. Freshman guard Karon Abraham did his best to keep the Colonials in the game, scoring eight straight points to pull Robert Morris within 39-29 with 4:17 to play before halftime. He buried a pair of three-pointers, and after the second trifecta picked the pocket of Johnson before converting a fastbreak layup. Syracuse responded out of a timeout after Abraham’s eighth straight point by closing the first half on a 16-3 surge to take a 55-32 lead at the break. Arinze Onuaku had 14 points in the first half for the Orange. In the second half the Syracuse lead eventually swelled to 71-38 as the Orange shot 51.7 percent (15-for-29) from the field after halftime.
Leading Scorers: Jones (15), Abraham (13), Robinson (10), Nwigwe (5)
Leading Rebounders: Robinson (11), Green (5), Thompson (4)
Assists: Nwigwe (3), Robinson (2), Johnson (2), Jones (2), Abraham (2), Williams (2)
Syracuse Game Notes - The Colonials fell to 0-3 in the all-time series against Syracuse ... The Orange shot 64.5 percent (20-for-31) from the field in the first half en route to a 55-32 halftime lead and converted 58.3 percent (35-for-60) of their shots overall ... The Colonials finished 22-for-62 (35.5 percent) from the field and were just 6-for-23 (26.1 percent) from long range ... Robert Morris posted 16 assists on its 22 field goals ... Syracuse finished with 26 assists ... RMU posted 15 steals, the second highest total in a game under third-year head coach Mike Rice ... The Colonials finished 10-for-17 (58.8 percent) at the free-throw line.
Mr. Jones - After sitting out the 2008-09 campaign to concentrate on academics after being declared a partial qualifier by the NCAA, sophomore guard Velton Jones led the Colonials in their 2009-10 season opener @ Syracuse (11/11/09). He converting six of his 11 shots from the field, including a 3-for-6 performance from long range, for 15 points while adding two assists and four steals against the Orange. More importantly, Jones finished with just two turnovers. Jones became the first Colonial to lead the team in scoring in his first collegiate game in school history.
Big Things in Small Packages - While sophomore guard Velton Jones produced in his collegiate debut @ Syracuse (11/11/09), so did guard Karon Abraham. The 5’9”, 150-pound true freshman scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half against the Orange, including one stretch where he scored eight consecutive points for Robert Morris. He also added two rebounds, two assists and a steal against Syracuse and is the first true freshman to score in double figures in his collegiate debut since former forward Keith Jones (1995-99) finished with 14 points in a 75-73 victory over Vermont (11/25/95) to open the 1995-96 campaign. Jones posted a double-double in his first collegiate game, adding 10 rebounds to go along with 14 points.
Double Your Pleasure - Senior forward Rob Robinson, RMU’s top returning scorer and rebounder from last season, quietly put together a solid game in RMU’s 2009-10 season opener @ Syracuse (11/11/09). He recorded his third career double-double thanks to 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, converting five of his nine shots from the field while also adding two assists and two steals. Robinson will look to join former teammate Jeremy Chappell (2005-09) as the only Colonials in school history to open the year with back-to-back double-doubles Monday @ Penn State, as Chappell turned the trick last season.
The Drive For Five - Robert Morris entered the 2009-10 campaign looking to accomplish something that has never been done before in school history. The Colonials are in search of their fifth straight winning season. In the 34-year history of the program, the Colonials have posted four consecutive winning seasons twice. From 1988 to 1992, RMU posted an overall record of 79-40 (.664), reaching the NCAA Tournament three times over that span. In RMU’s current stretch from 2005 to 2009, the Colonials posted a record of 82-44 (.651), reaching the NIT (2008) for the first time in school history and the NCAA Tournament once (2009).
Five Against One - While Robert Morris searches for its fifth straight winning season in 2009-10, the Colonials entered the new year as the top program in the Northeast Conference over the last five years. RMU posted an overall record of 96-59 (.619) from 2004 to 2009, ahead of Central Connecticut State’s mark of 79-72 (.523). In league play, the Colonials were 61-29 (.678) from 2004 to 2009, also ahead of Central Connecticut State (55-35). In addition, RMU’s run over the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons that produced a 50-19 (.725) overall record and 31-5 (.861) league mark is the best two-year stretch in NEC history.
And We Begin Again - Despite the loss of Northeast Conference Player of the Year and all-time leading three-point shooter Jeremy Chappell (2005-09) and NEC Defensive Player of the Year Bateko Francisco (2007-09), Robert Morris returns 60.8 percent (1,499-of-2,467) of its scoring, 58 percent (673-of-1,161) of its rebounding and 61.9 percent (332-of-536) of its assists from last season. Three of RMU’s five starters return in 2009-10, including senior forward Rob Robinson, who averaged 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds last year.
Delay of Game - One of RMU’s three returning starters this season is senior guard Jimmy Langhurst, who entered his final season of eligiblity as the active leading scorer for the Colonials with 697 career points. However, Langhurst suffered a broken finger in the preseason and played just six minutes in RMU’s 2009-10 season opener @ Syracuse (11/11/09), finishing 0-for-3 from the field. He is listed as probable for Monday’s game @ Penn State but more than likely will be back in action full tilt when Robert Morris closes out the 2K Sports Classic, benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, when the Colonials play three games in three days in Albany, N.Y., Nov. 20-22.
Game On - While former guard Jeremy Chappell (2005-09) concluded his career at Robert Morris last year as the all-time leader in games played with 124, it may not be very long that he holds the record. Senior guard Mezie Nwigwe has been a key reserve player for Robert Morris over the course of the last three seasons, and he entered the 2009-10 campaign having played in 96 career contests. Barring injury, should Nwigwe play in each of RMU’s 31 games in 2009-10, Nwigwe will establish a new record for games played with 127. Nwigwe earned just his fourth career start in RMU’s 2009-10 season opener @ Syracuse (11/11/09).