Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Robert Morris knocks off defending champion, Kentucky, in first round of NIT

Rocky lives!

Ever see the original Rocky, where decorated and undefeated world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed is told the top contender for his big New Year's Day bout won't be able to fight due to an injury? Creed, his manager and promoter scramble to come up with a worthy opponent, but none are available. The Champ then comes up with a novel idea of selecting a local unknown fighter from Philadelphia (the location for the big fight), and promoting it as a sort of goodwill gesture as a way to generate interest in what he thinks will be a quick knockout. "I'll drop him in three."

Creed picks "The Italian Stallion," Rocky Balboa out of a book, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Rocky gives Creed the match of his life and loses in a split decision, but in Rocky II, he defeats Creed and wins the title.

For the Robert Morris men's basketball team, there is no need for a sequel, and even if there was, there is no way they can possibly top what transpired Tuesday night at the Sewell Center in Coraopolis, Pa.

The Colonials won the NEC regular season championship but lost out on an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after losing in the conference tournament. The consolation prize was a trip to the second-tier NIT, but like Rocky Balboa, there opponent was a traditional college basketball heavyweight, the Kentucky Wildcats, the defending National Champions, who received a bid to the NIT after a rare down season. The Wildcats were a No. 1 seed, but since their venue is being used for NCAA tournament games this weekend,  they were forced to travel to play No. 8 seed Robert Morris in its 3500 capacity gym.

It was a nice bone to throw a small school, and it certainly generated a great deal of excitement, especially considering Kentucky coach John Calipari, who grew up minutes from the campus, was returning home.

However, the Colonials did Rocky one better and knocked off Kentucky, 59-57, in the biggest win in school history.

Life really does imitate art.

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