Robinson, Panthers continue road trip at Hoosiers


By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

After a weeklong break to recover from its tournament in Hawaii, the Pitt men’s basketball team faces its second consecutive Power 5 conference team in Indiana Tuesday night.

The Panthers (4-2, 0-0 ACC) will travel to Bloomington, Ind., to face the Indiana Hoosiers (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten) as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The game will be Pitt’s first since defeating Kansas State 70-47 in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 26.

Junior point guard James Robinson led a balanced scoring effort in that game, and led the team with 14 points. Sophomore forward/center Michael Young chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds in the win.

“That was a lot of experience for me, going up against different types of teams that we might see in the ACC,” Young said after the game. “We’re a pretty young team. So this was a great experience.”

The Hoosiers won their last game against UNC Greensboro, but before that, they lost to Eastern Washington, 88-86.

Indiana has shown to be a moderately inconsistent team thus far: It lost the game against Eastern Washington only four days after beating Southern Methodist, which was ranked No. 22 at the time.

This game will be only the ninth meeting between the two teams — the series is currently tied 4-4. Pitt and Indiana faced off in the 2003 NCAA Tournament in Boston, a game the Panthers won 74-52.

In last year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Pitt defeated Penn State 78-69 at the Petersen Events Center in the first game of the event.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said after the team’s last game that the players were looking forward to the week-long hiatus from playing.

“We’re exhausted. There is no question,” he said. “This is the team we are. Not the team we were a week ago or two weeks ago, and this is what we are going forward.”

Through six games, freshman guard James Blackmon Jr., who has averaged 20.8 points per game, led Indiana. Junior guard Yogi Ferrell closely follows him, with 18.2 points per game.

Blackmon is also the most notable 3-point threat for the Hoosiers. He has shot 57 percent from long range so far this season, and averages almost six 3-point attempts per game.

The freshman leads the team in rebounds as well, averaging 5.5 per game.

Young leads Pitt in scoring and rebounding per game so far, averaging 14.7 and 8.3, respectively.

Robinson is the only other player averaging double-digit scoring this season, with 12.7 points per game.

Tuesday’s matchup will feature two of the younger teams in the country. Pitt only returns one senior who played significant minutes last season in Cameron Wright — Aron Phillips-Nwankwo and Derrick Randall are the other seniors.

Indiana does not field any seniors on its roster, and several players have left early for the NBA draft in recent years, including Victor Oladipo and Noah Vonleh.

Two of Pitt’s more experienced players, senior Cameron Wright and junior Durand Johnson, are missing the game for different reasons.

Wright is still recovering from a broken foot, and Johnson has been suspended for the entire 2014-2015 season.

Tuesday night’s contest continues a stretch of nearly a month between games that Pitt plays at the Petersen Events Center. It last took the court there against Samford on Nov. 16 and will not again until it plays St. Bonaventure at home on Dec. 13. Indiana is the last major conference team Pitt faces before it begins ACC play at North Carolina State on Jan. 3.

The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be available on ESPN2.