MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — For 20 minutes, the home crowd had hope.
Officially opening the brand-new UPMC Events Center at the foot of Robert Morris’ campus on Tuesday, the Colonials basketball team faced as stern of a test as they will all season on their newly installed hardwood.
Robert Morris hosted cross-town visitors Pitt, and not just any Pitt team, but a Pitt team coming off an embarrassing upset loss to Nicholls State on their home floor on Wednesday.
The bigger, faster and more-talented Panthers came started by scoring the game’s first seven points.
But the something changed. The RMU shots started to fall. The Colonial Crazies in the student section became energized. The young Pitt team with only one player to ever win a road game with the Panthers in its lineup started to lose its composure.
The sellout crowd rose to its feet, and though there were many Pitt fans in attendance, began to factor into the game. The teams went into the half-time break tied.
One could envision the new building possessing a level of energy unseen at the dark, uncomfortable and smaller Sewall Center. This is the building, the crowd, the energy that Andy Toole can use to fuel significant upsets.
But not on Tuesday.
In the second half, Trey McGowens kept slashing to the basket, Terrell Brown was a monster in the paint and in the end, bigger, faster and more talented won out as the Panthers took home a 71-57 victory.
McGowens finished with 25 points. Brown had 10 points and nine rebounds. Au’Diese Toney had 11 points and Ryan Murphy had 10 as the Panthers filled the basket in the second half.
Josh Williams led RMU with 12 points, but on just 5 of 13 shooting and 2 of 7 from 3-point range as the Colonials shot just 37.9 percent as a team in the loss.
Pitt will return to the city limits to host longtime rivals West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl on Friday at 7 p.m.
Robert Morris will take part in the 2019 MABC Invitational with two games at Toledo, playing Howard on Friday and Toledo on Saturday.