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College Basketball

Point Park Answers the Call, Providing only City Basketball Game This Year vs. Robert Morris

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Ed Thompson/Pittsburgh Sports Now

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — There will be no City Game for the second consecutive season, as Pitt and Duquesne’s annual series has been called off with no future games scheduled between the teams.

The Dukes haven’t played Robert Morris since 2017, with their rivalry also interrupted. The area Division II and III schools are not playing this fall, with the PSAC postponed until January at least and the PAC on hold until the end of that month.

When it comes to men’s basketball, the only city-wide action we’re getting this season happened on short notice on Saturday night, as Point Park agreed to visit Robert Morris on short notice after their previously scheduled game was postponed due to the Colonials’ COVID-19-related shutdown.

“This might be the only City Game this year that’s played between opponents if you think about it,” third-year Point Park coach Joe Lewandowski said on Saturday. “We’re excited to keep that tradition alive.”

Point Park walked into UPMC Events Center Saturday night and fell, 75-57 to Robert Morris — a respectable outcome for the NAIA Pioneers, playing up several levels.

“We pride ourselves on always answering the call,” said Lewandowski. “We’re trying to build our program on being willing to compete against anyone. We’re playing some younger guys and hoping to come away better. I really respect Coach Toole. He’s built great chemistry at his program. The facility is incredible. We really appreciate a chance to play here.”

Despite a now 0-3 record on the season, Point Park has had to be very resilient as its conference, the River States Conference cancelled its first four games of December. The Pioneers were slated to be at Ohio Christian on Saturday but when that was cancelled, this game was agreed upon on short notice.

Point Park’s roster for this season consists of 18 players, but the Pioneers played Kent State on Wednesday with nine players. Saturday, a total of 12 players were available and each of them played.

“I thought that they were resilient,” Lewandowski said of his team. “They did all of the testing and stayed smart so they could get here. RMU is super talented and very well coached. They kept competing and worked hard.”

With the first four River States Conference games cancelled, Point Park had the opportunity to either stop playing games or pursue D-I opportunities. Both Lewandowski and his team chose the latter, embracing the challenge.

Point Park competed for 18 minutes versus a Kent State team, which just a couple of days later took 15th ranked Virginia to overtime.

Saturday, Point Park had its run in the first half, cutting Robert Morris’s lead to seven points and there were victories to be had, namely 29-25 in rebounds, even if the scoreboard does not agree.

Lewandowski believes Point Park’s biggest victory is representing Pittsburgh every time his team walks into a building.

“We want people to come up to us and say that’s what Pittsburgh is all about, is hardnosed hard-working kids,” he said. “We’ve been practicing a lot. The players took sacrifices. A lot of them skipped going home for Thanksgiving. I appreciate their sacrifices.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
 
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