(Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette)
The Decade That Was:
College basketball
By Joshua Axelrod

Dec. 23, 2019

It's been an odd decade for Pittsburgh-area college basketball.

There were some incredible highs from 2000-09, most notably Pitt's 2009 Elite Eight NCAA tournament run led by the dynamic trio of DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Levance Fields.

Pitt's sustained success last decade created expectations going into this one that were probably too high for their own good. By that logic, one could look at the 2010s as an overall disappointment occasionally punctuated by the kinds of moments college basketball fans live for.

College football

There was a bit of March Madness excitement, though there was much more heartbreak, like Pitt missing the postseason for half the decade.

With the decade coming to a close, let's take a look back at how the basketball programs at Pitt, Duquesne and Robert Morris fared from 2010-19.

Click a category below.

Signature moments

1 March 19, 2013: Robert Morris stuns Kentucky in the first round of the NIT, taking down the shell-shocked Wildcats, 59-57, at Sewall Center.
Robert Morris' Lucky Jones is lifted on top of the shoulders of the crowd after defeating Kentucky in the first round of the NIT. (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)
2 Sept. 18, 2011: Pitt submits a formal application to leave the Big East and join the ACC, which it officially becomes a member of at the start of the 2013-14 season.
Derrick Randall scores in the first half against Savannah State on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. (Keith Srakocic/AP)
3 March 21, 2016: Longtime Pitt coach Jamie Dixon leaves the Panthers to coach at TCU, his alma mater. He's replaced by Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings.
Jamie Dixon walks toward the trophy case in the lobby of the Petersen Events Center in 2010. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)
4 March 19, 2011: No. 1 seed Pitt falls to Butler, 71-70, in the second round of the NCAA tournament after a missed Gilbert Brown free throw and a poorly timed Nasir Robinson foul.
Pitt's Gilbert Brown walks off the court after losing to Butler in the third round of the NCAA tournament in Washington, DC. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
5 Dec. 2, 2016: Emile Blackman puts up 21 points, Mike Lewis II tallies 15 and Tarin Smith racks up 12 as Duquesne gets its first City Game win over Pitt since 2000 with a 64-55 victory.

Team of the decade team (years played this decade in parentheses)

Starting five

F — Michael Young (2013-17): Only player in Pitt history with more than 1,800 career points, 800 rebounds and 200 assists
Pitt's Michael Young celebrates after dunking against Purdue at the Pete in 2015. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
F — Jamel Artis (2013-17): One of three Pitt players ever to finish his time in Oakland with at least 1,600 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists
Pitt's Jamel Artis drives to the net against Yale's Miye Oni and Alex Copeland at the Pete in 2016. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
G — April Robinson (2012-16): 2016 Atlantic 10 conference co-player of the year whose 14.9 points and 6.4 assists per game led Duquesne's winningest senior class in school history
Duquesne's April Robinson drives the ball past George Washington's Brianna Cummings, left, and Caira Washington during an Atlantic 10 tournament game March 6, 2016, in Richmond, Va. (Chet Strange/AP)
G — Micah Mason (2013-16): Prolific sharpshooter whose .458 3-point percentage as a Duke was the best in Atlantic 10 history and his overall .463 3-point shooting percentage (including his freshman season at Drake) was the sixth-best in NCAA history
Duquesne's Micah Mason drives to the net against Urbana in 2015 at the Dukes' Palumbo Center. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
G — Ashton Gibbs (2008-12): Scoring point guard who is among Pitt's all-time leaders in career 3s made, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage
Pitt's Ashton Gibbs gets a shot up in front of Villanova's Antonio Pena, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)


Sixth man — Lamar Patterson (2009-14): Durable, hard-working combo guard/forward who started 66 consecutive games for the Panthers
Pitt forward Lamar Patterson goes up for a layup as Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett tries to stop him in the Legends Classic, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Associated Press)
G — T.J. McConnell (2010-12): Current NBA player and incredible passer whose 171 assists in 2011 broke the school's sophomore assists record of 159 (set by Clayton Adams during the 1988-89 season) and ranks fourth all-time in Duquesne single-season history
Duquesne guard T.J. McConnell looks to pass around Robert Morris' Karon Abraham in a Nov. 19, 2010 game. (John Heller/Post-Gazette)
G — Karvel Anderson (2012-14): A pure scorer who put up 1,123 points in just two seasons at Robert Morris and was the only NCAA Division I player to be ranked top 10 in 3-pointers made per game (3.31, ranked 9th) and 3-point field goal percentage (.463, ranked 7th) for the 2013-14 season
Robert Morris' Karvel Anderson gets a shot up against Saint Francis in the first half of the NEC semifinals, March 8, 2014, at the Sewall Center. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
G — Brianna Kiesel (2011-15): A versatile point guard who started all 122 games of her career and ranks fifth on Pitt's all-time scoring list (1,938 points), fifth in all-time assists (433) and third all-time in free throw percentage (.795)
Guard Brianna Kiesel goes for a layup during the City Game between Pitt and Duquesne Sunday, December 29, 2013. (Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette)
G — Anna Niki Stamolamprou (2013-17): NEC Player of the Year in 2016-17, two-time NEC Tournament MVP (2016, 2017) and one of two players in Robert Morris history with 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals
Robert Morris guard Anna Niki Stamolamprou drives to the net against Fairleigh Dickinson's Natalie Zamora, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, at the Sewall Center. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
F — Damian Saunders (2007-11): Two-time Atlantic 10 defensive player of the year who ended his Duquesne career as the only player in NCAA history to rack up more than 250 assists (281), steals (277) and blocks (300)
Duquesne's Damian Saunders celebrates a basket against Charlotte, Saturday, January 22, 2011. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
C — Steven Adams (2012-13): A rebounding and shot-blocking beast who was Pitt's only one-and-done of the decade
Pitt's Steven Adams fights for a rebound against Duquesne's Derrick Colter and Andre Marhold during the 2012 City Game at Consol Energy Center. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)


Best player: Ashton Gibbs, Pitt The 6-2, 190-pound native of Scotch Plains, N.J., was an integral part of four Panthers teams that reached the NCAA tournament, including one that was a Gilbert Brown free throw from reaching the Sweet Sixteen. He was a marksman from the foul line and behind the arc, and his 1,748 career points ranks among the most in school history.
Pitt's Ashton Gibbs drives to the net against Duquesne during the 2011 City Game at Consol Energy Center. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
Best game: Pitt 98, West Virginia 95 (3 OT), Feb. 12, 2010: Two ranked squads and longtime rivals slog it out through three overtimes, but in the end, No. 25 Pitt rallies behind 24 points each from Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs to take down No. 5 West Virginia despite 32 points from Da'Sean Butler.
Pitt's Ashton Gibbs yells after a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to put the game into overtime against West Virginia, Feb. 12, 2010. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
Biggest upset: Robert Morris 59, Kentucky 57, March 19, 2013: The Colonials' old arena was full to the brim with 3,444 fans, and all of them were cheering at the top of their lungs as Robert Morris took down the defending national champion Wildcats to open the 2013 NIT. "This is humbling," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the game.
Robert Morris players and fans storm the court after beating Kentucky 59-57. (Associated Press)
Biggest upset, honorable mention: Pitt takes down No. 15 Duke, the reigning NCAA champions, 76-62 at Petersen Events Center (Feb. 28, 2016).
Duke's Grayson Allen (3) battles for a rebound against Pitt's Rafael Maia (right) and Chris Jones on February 28, 2016. (Getty Images)
Best rivalry Pitt-Syracuse: &Pitt and Syracuse both joined the ACC at the same time and didn't skip a beat in continuing their storied Big East rivalry. The two teams have played 19 times this decade, with the Orange slightly edging the Panthers 10-9 in those contests. That much parity between two teams that have been playing each other consistently since the '50s is the definition of a rivalry.
Syracuse fans wear masks with the likeness of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim during the team's game against Pitt during the Big East tournament, March 14, 2013, in New York City. (Getty Images)
Best coach Charlie Buscaglia: He may only be in his fourth season as Robert Morris' women's basketball coach, but Buscaglia is already a three-time NEC coach of the year, three-time NEC regular-season champion and two-time NEC tournament winner. He also coached his squad to two NCAA tournament appearances in three seasons. That's a pretty impressive resume for such a relatively short tenure.
Robert Morris Colonials women's basketball head coach Charlie Buscaglia cuts down the net after beating the Bryant Bulldogs to win the NEC Championship, March 12, 2017, at the Sewall Center. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Memorable shots


1 At the end of the first half of Duquesne's 96-66 win over Massachusetts, Mike Lewis II scores three of his 31 points by stealing an inbounds pass, throwing the ball up with one hand and banking it in as the buzzer sounded (Feb. 15, 2017).
Duquesne's Mike Lewis II takes a shot as Zach Lewis of UMass defends him, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, at the AJ Palumbo Center. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
2 Ashton Gibbs gets an inbounds pass with 3.5 seconds left, dribbles down the court and hits a 30-foot buzzer beater as Pitt takes down Providence, 73-71 (March 4, 2010).
Pitt's Ashton Gibbs is mobbed by teammates after making a last-second shot to with the game against Providence. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
3 Velton Jones dribbles the length of the floor and drains a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left, giving Robert Morris a 55-53 road victory over Sacred Heart (Feb. 23, 2012).

You hate to see it

Pitt was the victim of two insane buzzer-beaters this decade, one on a 3-pointer from Tyler Ennis in a 58-56 loss to Syracuse on Feb. 12, 2014, and another on a step-back jumper from Kemba Walker in a 76-74 loss to Connecticut in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament on March 10, 2011.
(From SportsCenter via YouTube)
After a big season-opening win against Florida State, Pitt falls to Nicholls State, 75-70, three days later at Petersen Events Center (Nov. 9, 2019).
Robert Morris won seven out of eight matchups against Duquesne this decade, including a 91-69 beatdown at Sewall Center on Dec. 15, 2012.
Suzie McConnell-Serio left Duquesne to coach the Pitt women's basketball team on April 12, 2013. She was fired almost exactly five years later on April 5, 2018, after going 67-87 overall and 22-58 in the ACC.
Pitt's Suzie McConnell-Serio gives last-minute instructions to the team at the Pete in 2015. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Penn State crushes Pitt, 85-54, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., a bad start for a season in which the Panthers would go 0-18 in regular-season ACC play and 8-24 overall (Nov. 20, 2017).

Wacky finishes

No. 11 Virginia forces overtime with a late 3-pointer by London Perrantes, but three quick 3s in extra time put Pitt ahead for good as it emerges victorious, 88-76 (Jan. 4, 2017).
Pitt's Sheldon Jeter reacts after hitting a 3-pointer in overtime against Virginia on January 4, 2017. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Robert Morris led No. 2 Villanova, 55-47, with 4:19 left to play, but Scottie Reynolds and the Wildcats stormed back and avoided what would've been an embarrassing loss by beating the Colonials in overtime, 73-70, in the NCAA tournament's first round (March 18, 2010).
Villanova's Corey Stokes, left, and Maalik Wayns fight for the ball with Robert Morris' Dallas Green during the first round of the 2010 NCAA tournament in Providence, R.I. (Getty Images)
T.J. McConnell's potential game-sealing steal was ruled out of bounds, and St. Bonaventure's Michael Davenport hit a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to ice a 64-62 victory over the Dukes and trigger the first court storm by a Duquesne opponent since the 1970s (Feb. 5, 2011).


With 1.4 seconds left, Butler's Shelvin Mack fouls Pitt's Gilbert Brown near midcourt. Brown hits the first free throw to tie the score but misses the second. Butler's Matt Howard gets the rebound and is fouled by Pitt's Nasir Robinson. Howard hits the go-ahead free throw with 0.8 seconds to play and the Brad Stevens-coached Bulldogs bounced the top-seeded Panthers from the NCAA tournament in the second round, 71-70. "It was a stupid play," Robinson said. "It wasn't the ref's fault. It was my fault" (March 19, 2011).
Pitt's Nasir Robinson collects himself in the locker room after losing to Butler in the third round of the NCAA tournament in Washington, DC. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

Emotional win

After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma the spring before his junior year and enduring 21 radiation treatments, a cancer-free Derrick Colter hit seven 3s and scored a then-career-high 26 points in Duquesne's 91-51 season-opening victory over Bluefield State (Nov. 15, 2014).
Duquesne's Derrick Colter puts up a 3-point shot against Bluefield State's Jacari Smith in the Dukes' season-opener and Colter's return to competitive play after cancer treatment, Nov. 15, 2014, at the A.J. Palumbo Center. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

What a comeback

After trailing for 31 consecutive minutes of game time, Pitt erases a 14-point halftime deficit to Oakland and an 18-point second-half Golden Grizzly lead to win 72-62 in overtime, a period in which the Panthers hit 5-of-5 field-goal attempts (Nov. 17, 2012).
Pitt's J.J. Moore celebrates at the buzzer after defeating Oakland 72-62 in overtime at the Pete. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)
Trailing Clemson by five with 13 seconds left, Pitt's Lamar Patterson hits a 3-pointer and deflects the ensuing inbound pass to teammate Josh Newkirk, who nails a buzzer-beating jumper to force an overtime in which the Panthers would prevail, 83-78 (March 8, 2014).
Pitt beats Louisville, 82-77, in overtime after overcoming deficits of seven and five to earn their 31st consecutive home victory. Louisville coach Rick Pitino called this loss the "most heartbreaking" in his career since a Christian Laettner shot beat his Kentucky team in the 1992 Elite Eight (January 16, 2010).
Duquesne completes its biggest comeback in 21 years by riding 20 second-half points from Frankie Hughes to rally from 19 points down at halftime against Rhode Island and beat the Rams, 75-72 (Jan. 30, 2019).
Robert Morris trailed St. Francis Brooklyn by 15 at halftime but stormed back in the second half behind 21-point performances from Josh Williams and Matty McConnell to win in overtime, 69-65, in the NEC tournament quarterfinals (March 6, 2019).
After being diagnosed with cancer in September, Pitt's Kyla Nelson scores three points and adds two assists against Miami (Ohio) in her return to the court. (Dec. 17, 2019)
ESPN's Holly Rowe, a cancer survivor herself, surprises Pitt's Kyla Nelson before the Panthers' Dec. 17, 2019, game against Miami (Ohio).


673 days between Pitt ACC victories from March 7, 2017-Jan. 9, 2019
Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie, right, puts up a shot against Pitt guard Cameron Johnson in the first round of the ACC tournament, Tuesday, March 7, 2017, in N.Y. Pittsburgh won 61-59, and wouldn't win again in the ACC until Jan. 9, 2019. (Associated Press)
30 hours that 31 Duquesne basketball players spent on a bus traveling from Fairfax, Va., back home after a Jan. 22, 2016, victory over George Mason due to a bus malfunction that stranded them on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 22 hours
(From Duquesne Basketball via YouTube)
15 3-pointers Robert Morris guard Josh Williams hit on Nov. 14, 2018, in a 104-57 win over Mount Aloysius; Williams went 15 for 25 from beyond the arc, finished with 49 points and tied an NCAA Division I single-game record for 3-pointers made
Teammates mob Robert Morris guard Josh Williams after he ties an NCAA record for 3-pointers against Mount Aloysius at RMU's North Athletic Complex. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

Individual brilliance

Trey McGowens scores a Pitt freshman record 33 points in an 89-86 overtime victory against Louisville on Jan. 9, 2019, and puts up 30 five days later in a 75-62 win over Florida State.
(From ACC Digital Network via YouTube)
Pitt's Jamel Artis and Michael Young each put up 30 points in a 112-106 shootout victory over Marshall (Dec. 28, 2016).
Pitt's Sheldon Jeter reaches for the ball above teammate Michael Young, right, and Marshall's Stevie Browning, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, at the Pete. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Dava'Nyar Workman's 25-point, 12-rebound double-double helps lead the Duquesne women's team to a 97-76 victory over Seton Hall and the first NCAA tournament win in program history (March 19, 2016).
From left, Duquesne's April Robinson, Emilie Gronas, Deva'Nyar Workman, and Chassidy Omogrosso celebrate in the final seconds of the team's first-round game against Seton Hall in the NCAA tournament in Storrs, Conn. (Associated Press)
Robert Morris' Karvel Anderson scores 38 points in the Colonials' 89-78 victory over St. John's in the first round of the NIT (March 18, 2014).
Micah Mason's career-high 22 points lifts Duquesne over No. 10 Saint Louis on the road (Feb. 27, 2014).
Freshman Stasha Carey notched a double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds) as 10th-seeded Pitt knocked off No. 7 Chattanooga in the NCAA tournament, ending the Mocs' 25-game winning streak.
Pitt forward Stasha Carey, center, chases down a loose ball against Chattanooga, March 21, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (Associated Press)

We wrote it

Running back Le'Veon Bell was an All-Pro running for the Steelers 690 days ago. JuJu Smith-Schuster had just completed his final season at USC. Antonio Brown was showing up for work. [Jeff] Capel was an assistant coach at Duke. [Chris] Mack was at Xavier, and [Kevin] Stallings had a winning record. Sure, Pitt's just 1-1 in the conference with an incredibly daunting schedule ahead. After what this program has been through, 1-1 looks pretty sweet.

Joe Starkey, Jan. 9, 2019

They said it

"What I don't want is people to think that I don't love Pittsburgh or I didn't love being at Pitt, because I did."

— Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, after it was announced he would be leaving Pitt for TCU

Pitt men's basketball head coach Jamie Dixon is congratulated by his players after the Panthers defeated Villanova and clinched the regular-season Big East Championship, March 5, 2011, at the Pete. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazete)


"This is a shot in the arm for them and they deserve to win the game. If we'd have won at the buzzer, it would have been a shame."

— Kentucky coach John Calipari, after his Wildcats lost to Robert Morris in the 2013 NIT

Kentucky coach John Calipari takes the court before the start of the team's NIT game against Robert Morris. (Associated Press)


"You said he got a seven-year deal? [whistle] He must have got a pay raise, too. I'm definitely going to give him a call tonight. He's got to take me to lunch when I get back home, that's for sure."

— Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, on his old high school coach Keith Dambrot being hired to coach Duquesne's basketball team

Duquesne men's basketball head coach Keith Dambrot looks on during the game against St. Francis Brooklyn, Nov. 11, 2017, at the A.J. Palumbo Center. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)


"This will be my last job, I don't want to go anywhere else."

— Suzie McConnell-Serio, after Pitt hired her away from Duquesne in 2013

Head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio leads the Pitt women's basketball coaching staff onto the court before the start of their game against Virginia Tech, February 12, 2015, at the Pete. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)


"I thought this was the year. I was confident. It's tough for it to end like this."

— Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs, after his Panthers lost to Butler in the 2011 NCAA tournament

"Duke is a good team; we're a better team and we showed it tonight."

— Pitt forward Jamel Artis after his team beat Duke in 2016

Catching up with ... Gilbert Brown

(From Basketball Breakdown via YouTube)

Gilbert Brown knows that things could've been different if he had just hit that free throw.

With 1.4 seconds left to go in Pitt's second-round game against Butler in the 2011 NCAA tournament, Brown was fouled by the Bulldogs' Shelvin Mack. He made the first free throw attempt, but the second circled the hoop before finally rimming out.

Butler's Matt Howard got the rebound, was fouled by Pitt's Nasir Robinson and then hit the winning free throws to end Pitt's championship dreams.

"It definitely changed the history of Pitt basketball, with that one shot," Brown told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We probably do win the national championship or make a Final Four that year."

Brown's legacy as a Panther shouldn't be boiled down to that one missed free throw. He spent five years in Oakland and was the third-leading scorer on that 2011 Pitt squad that went 28-6 and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Pitt players Nasir Robinson, top, Gilbert Brown, left, Gary McGhee, center, and Ashton Gibbs react with their teammates as they are announced as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, March 13, 2011. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

That heartbreak doesn't erase some of Brown's favorite memories as a Panther, like winning the Big East tournament his freshman year in Madison Square Garden with his family in attendance.

"I had a great time. I enjoyed it," he said of his Pitt days. "We won a lot and I made a lot of friendships and bonds that will never be broken over time through my tenure at Pitt with my teammates and friends."

After graduation, Brown attempted to break into the NBA landscape. Unfortunately, the end of his college career coincided with the NBA lockout of 2011, forcing him to begin his professional basketball career in Germany.

He eventually was given a shot with the Boston Celtics — the organization that currently employs Brad Wanamaker, his former teammate — before landing in the G-League and eventually going to play ball in Puerto Rico.

Pitt's Gilbert Brown leaps to keep the ball inbounds as he's defended by Louisville's Samardo Samuels, January 16, 2010. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

That was just his first year out of college. Since then, he has played pro basketball overseas in those two countries plus Israel, Turkey, Italy and the Dominican Republic. He currently suits up for Israel's Maccabi Ra'anana club.

"I've gotten to travel the world and go to a number of countries, played in top leagues against some of the best competition over here," Brown said. "So I have no complaints."

He said that the best food he has encountered in his travels has been in Turkey and Israel, though he also enjoyed the free meals he got once a day in Italy — "fresh pasta, fresh everything," as Brown put it. He was not a fan of German food, but you can't win them all.

The international life has treated Brown well enough that he has no real NBA aspirations anymore, though he's also not willing to shut the door on that possibility entirely.

"At this point, not really," he said of the likelihood of him making the big league. "I still definitely think I could play in the NBA. But at this point, it is what it is. Unless I have a big season, I don't see anything that could bring me back to the NBA. I'm content with that."

Brown is clearly doing just fine, having played consistent pro ball for the last decade. He has faced some adversity, like a lack of NBA interest and tearing both his ACL and meniscus two years ago, but he's forged ahead.

Of course, he's still keeping an eye on his Panthers. And he thinks that something special is brewing in Oakland.

"I've been around Jeff Capel and the program and the guys a number of times, and I get the feeling that in the coming years that this program is going to be the same one in the ACC that we were in the Big East," Brown said.

"I still wear my colors and rep my team, and so I'm hoping we'll come back and be the team we once were."

— Joshua Axelrod



Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The decade that was
College basketball
A closer look
Signature moments
Team of the decade
Memorable shots
You hate to see it
Wacky finishes
Emotional win
Individual brilliance
We wrote it
They said it
Catching up with...Gilbert Brown