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Dukes, Colonials seeking bragging rights

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By John Grupp
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011
 

They play against each other in the summer leagues and maintain a friendly, respectful rivalry.

While Big East power Pitt is the undisputed men's basketball king in the city, the annual Duquesne-Robert Morris game also provides a chance for local bragging rights.

The two schools will meet for the ninth year in a row, at 7 tonight at A.J. Palumbo Center.

Both teams are trying to build on relatively strong starts. Robert Morris (6-2) is off to its best eight-game mark in the program's 36-year Division I history. Duquesne (5-3) is undefeated at home this season and has a better RPI (108) than Big East schools Villanova (111) and West Virginia (116).

"At times we've been really good," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said last week. "At times we've been really bad."

Robert Morris, guided by second-year coach Andrew Toole, will be fighting history. The Colonials haven't won at Palumbo Center since 1990, going 0-7 during that span.

Duquesne, which blew a 13-point first-half lead in last year's 69-63 loss at Robert Morris, hasn't dropped back-to-back games to the Colonials since 1983-84.

The backcourt duel between T.J. McConnell (fourth in the nation in steals) and Eric Evans of Duquesne and Velton Jones and Coron Williams of Robert Morris is compelling, but the deciding factor might be the big men. Robert Morris is an excellent rebounding team for its size, while Duquesne posted a season-high 37 rebounds against Tennessee Tech to start to correct season-long shortcomings on the boards.

> > Good things happen when St. Francis (Pa.) sophomore forward Scott Eatherton shoots the ball. The 6-foot-8 Hershey product leads the nation in field goal percentage at 80.4 percent (41 for 51). Only one other player in the nation is shooting better than 70 percent, Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe. Since going 3 for 7 against Colgate, Eatherton is a remarkable 25 of 29 from the field in his past four games. Pitt's Nasir Robinson is third in the nation in field goal percentage (69.1).

> > La Roche College, which made an inspirational run to the 2011 NCAA Division III Tournament in memory of late coach Scott Lang, has won three in a row under coach Harry Jenkins. Sophomore forward David Jackson was named the AMCC player of the week after averaging 15.5 points and 14.0 rebounds in two wins for the Redhawks (5-1, 2-0), who visit Pitt-Greensburg (2-4, 1-1) on Wednesday.

District schedule

MEN

Robert Morris (6-2) at Duquesne (5-3)

When/where: 7 p.m. Tuesday/A.J. Palumbo Center, Pittsburgh

On air: WPGB-FM (104.7)

Series: Duquesne leads, 15-6

Of note: Duquesne has won at least 10 home games each of the past four seasons. The Dukes are 3-0 at home this season.

Players to watch

Robert Morris: Russell Johnson, Jr., F — Had 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds in last season's 69-63 come-from-behind victory over Duquesne.

Duquesne: Sean Johnson, Jr., G — Averaging a team-best 17.9 points per game, while shooting 90.5 percent from the free throw line (38 of 42)

WOMEN

Miami, Ohio (4-2) at Duquesne (5-1)

When/where: 11 a.m. Tuesday/A.J. Palumbo Center, Pittsburgh

On air: Redzonemedia.com

Series: Duquesne leads, 1-0

Of note: Duquesne beat host Miami, Ohio, 91-65, last season after bolting to a 12-0 lead.

Players to watch

Miami, Ohio: Courtney Osborn, Jr., G — The preseason all-MAC selection is averaging 16.5 points, 6.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game.

Duquesne: Alex Gensler, Sr., G — The Upper St. Clair native leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring (20.0 ppg) and 3-point shooting (.543).

Virginia Tech (2-5) at 16-Penn State (6-2)

When/where: 7 p.m. Tuesday/Bryce Jordan Center, University Park

On air: Penn State Sports Network

Series: Penn State leads, 1-0

Of note: Junior guard Alex Bentley needs five points to become the 33rd player in Penn State history to reach 1,000 for her career.

Players to watch

Virginia Tech: Monet Tellier, So., G — Averaging 18.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals, and scored a career-high 31 points against William & Mary in November.

Penn State: Maggie Lucas, So., G — Tied for second in the Big Ten in scoring (18.3 ppg) while playing more than 34 minutes per game.

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