Kent meets Pitt in rematch of 2002 tourney
The Panthers' Carl Krauser didn't play in that game, won by Kent State.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Carl Krauser left boxing behind for basketball about 10 years ago.
"Say you have a knucklehead that wants to starts something with you," Krauser explained Thursday. "You can't use your boxing skills because if you beat the guy up, you look like a maniac. So, I said, 'I don't need this. I want to try something else.' "
It turned out to be a good move for him, and Pittsburgh, which is in the NCAA tournament for a school-record fifth straight year.
"We didn't start winning as a program until the day Carl Krauser arrived on campus," Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "The main thing is he brought competitiveness and toughness to our program five years ago."
With Krauser not in the lineup as a redshirting freshman in 2002, the Panthers were beaten by Kent State in the round of 16.
The two schools meet again today.
Voice of experience
"I'm the only one who played in that game, so there's a lot of difference between this time and last time," Golden Flashes center Nate Gerwig said. "I'm just telling the guys to calm down and play the way we've been playing all season. That's why we are here, and that's how we have to keep playing."
The upset four years ago has helped fifth-seeded Pittsburgh (24-7) -- other than Krauser -- focus only on the 12th-seeded Golden Flashes (24-7) and not future matchups.
"Beyond being in the infamous 5-12 matchup where upsets are common, we know Kent State can beat us," center Aaron Gray said. "We can't overlook them."
Well, Krauser can.
"The game I'm looking forward to is UCLA," he said.
To have a chance to face the Bruins and former Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland, the Panthers would have to get to the Oakland Regional final. That's one step beyond the round of 16 the Big East power has advanced to in three of the past four years.
"I want to play against Coach Howland, and say a little something, talk a little trash to him," Krauser said. "That would be so fun, and kind of weird to play your old coach."
Pitt's undisputed leader
It's also weird for Krauser to know he'll turn 25 in May.
The native New Yorker from the Bronx is several years older than most of his teammates because he repeated the 11th grade and spent an extra year at a prep school before enrolling at Pittsburgh in 2001.
"We joke with him about his age a lot, but it's no joke that he's our No. 1 leader on and off the court with his experience and wisdom," Gray said. "I don't believe we'd be in the position we are without him."
Krauser is the first Panther with 1,500 points, 500 assists and 500 rebounds in a career and today he will become the third player in program history to play in four NCAA tournaments. The sturdy 6-foot-2, 200-pound point guard leads Pittsburgh in scoring (15.0) and assists (4.7) and averages 4.3 rebounds.
"Not one guy can stop him," Kent State coach Jim Christian said.
The Golden Flashes hope they can fluster Krauser and the Panthers with fans from Detroit, a 30-minute drive from The Palace. The Motor City produced Kent State's backcourt -- Jay Youngbood and DeAndre Haynes -- which combines for nearly 28 points, more than six assists and six rebounds a game.
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