Pitt-Greensburg men running up the score

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

At the beginning of the season, the magic number was 80.

That's how many points Pitt-Greensburg's men's basketball team had to average in order to win games.

The magic number has held true for the Bobcats as they are 4-0 whenever they score 80 points or more. Pitt-Greensburg has started 5-5 with a 3-0 record in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.

“We play this way in order for the opposing team to try to catch us with how many points we score,” coach Sean Strickland said.

In the past couple of games, Strickland is pleased with how the defense is playing, especially against top nonconference opponents he has scheduled this season.

“We actually have played a much better defense as of late. In the last game, (Christopher Newport) shot 34 percent from the floor,” Strickland said. “We are getting better and better. Some of the defenses we are playing are confusing to the other team and are sometimes confusing to us.”

With a young team, Strickland has seen the advantages of scheduling strong nonconference opponents, even if that means they might end up in the loss column.

After dropping the first three games to Mount Union, Grove City and Carnegie Mellon, the Bobcats have won five of the last seven games.

“It's been a pretty good start with a pretty rough out-of-conference schedule,” Strickland said. “It took us a long time to figure out everyone's role and to find ourselves. We look forward to getting into the meat of conference play.”

Sophomore guard Jerell Figueroa, who leads the team with 15.7 points per game, scored 24 points against Franciscan, 22 points against Grove City and 21 against Pitt-Bradford.

Sophomore guard Rocco Contristano, a Keystone Oaks grad, is second on the team with 15.2 ppg. Contristano scored 27 points against Elizabethtown and 20 points against Juniata.

Freshman Marcus Thomas, a transfer from Clarion, has averaged 11.4 ppg and 9.5 rpg. Thomas, who has four double-doubles this season, recorded his most recent one against NCAA Division III No. 18 Christopher Newport, a 76-70 loss, with 15 points and 15 rebounds.

“I think we have gained confidence. We hung in there in the game against the No. 18 team in the nation,” Strickland said. “It showed them when they are playing their game they are able to play with anyone. They should be playing with a lot of confidence with the rest of the conference schedule to go.”

After finishing 9-16 in the past three seasons, Strickland believes this team will finish the season strong and improve their record of previous seasons.

“The main thing is that we are shooting the ball well. We have been shooting over 50 percent in the last six games,” Strickland said. “We have spent time recruiting good people and not just good players. The team has faced a lot of adversity and they have gotten over the hump. This year, we have a lot of team bonding and the added chemistry.”

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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