MORRISON: Robert Morris Fans: It Is Time to Come Home to the UPMC Events Center
February 21, 2023
As February dwindles to its final days, the smell of postseason college basketball and the March Madness tournament fills the air. The Pittsburgh area has a lot to be excited about with their local teams as Pitt is vying for its first dance since the 2016 season and Duquesne has exceeded expectations this season in the A-10.
But let’s not forget about the red-headed stepchild in Pittsburgh college basketball, as former Colonial Sports Network Editor-In-Chief Nick Hedderick told KDKA reporter Bob Allen back in 2019.
Robert Morris has made their mark in the Horizon League this season and is playing some of their most meaningful basketball in the final week of the regular season for the first time since the 2019-20 season when they defeated St. Francis on Feb. 29, 2020, to clinch the Northeast Conference regular season title and later went on to win the NEC Tournament before COVID ended their season.
With that being said, students, university alum, and Pittsburgh area college basketball fans… It’s time to come back to the UPMC Events Center.
I will be the first one to tell you Robert Morris has had its growing pains moving from a more athletic guard-heavy Northeast Conference to a more fast-paced big-bodied Horizon League. Throughout my almost three years covering this team, it was evident that head coach Andy Toole and the Colonials were lacking some of the tools that found them so much success in the NEC before their departure in 2020.
The team lacked consistent scoring. They also lacked the ability to defend and rebound the ball consistently, and finally, the team struggled to close out close games.
However, this year has been a much different story for Robert Morris, even though the team experienced growing pains throughout the season and has gone through a roller coaster of a schedule where they would go on spurts of painful three-game losing streaks.
But this year has also been filled with the highs as they defeated the defending Horizon League champion Wright State Raiders on the road by double-digits, swept preseason favorite Purdue Fort Wayne, and even picked up their first win in program history over Antonie Davis and Detroit Mercy at the UPMC Events Center at the end of January.
Now, the team is playing some of their best basketball of the season, picking up wins over a struggling Green Bay team and putting together a full 40-minute effort against Milwaukee, defeating them 80-60.
So why should fans come back to the UPMC Events Center? Not only is the team playing well, but Toole is finally returning to his old form in the pre-Horizon League days.
Toole has been an extremely defensive-minded coach since he took over in 2010, but the move to the Horizon League was not so kind. The team struggled mightily, ranking dead last in defense, allowing 74 points per game.
Fast forward to this year and the Colonials are second in the conference giving up an average of 66 points per game. They also rank third in the Horizon League in opponent field goal percentage and fourth in the conference in rebounding.
The defensive formula might be fixed for the Colonials and things might have started to click, but attendance is still missing.
Even with the Colonials enjoying their best success at home in the past three years, they only average around 1,000 fans at every home game.
But tonight, it is a different story. Fans need to come out to Robert Morris’ game against Youngstown State. These two teams are just one hour apart from one another and have had a number of storied battles in the past before Robert Morris even joined the Horizon League.
Robert Morris is vying for a home first-round playoff game for the first time since joining the Horizon League back in 2020 and a win tonight over the top team in the conference can almost clinch that home playoff game.
Beyond that, Robert Morris still has a shot of obtaining the five seed and a first-round bye in the tournament with a win over the Penguins and with that win, a little bit of help from around the league can make that possible.
What more can you ask for than a playoff-type atmosphere against two geographic rivals who have faced off 26 times previously and have some history against one another?
It’s an exciting time to be a Pittsburgh college basketball fan and it’s time for students, alumni and fans to come out to watch a new-look Robert Morris team that has found its footing in the Horizon League.