RMU women get early NEC start

| Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011

Six games into the season, the Robert Morris women's basketball team has just one loss and the best record in the Northeast Conference.

Beginning today, they'll get their first crack at playing league opponents with a home game against Monmouth followed by another against Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday before resuming its nonconference schedule.

It will be their first game against Monmouth (2-4) since the Hawks knocked them out of the conference tournament in the semifinals in March and later played in the WNIT.

"They're tough. They won over 20 games last year and they're playing an up-tempo style with a new coach this year," Robert Morris coach Sal Buscglia said. "They're well-rounded and they really push the ball. It's certainly tough to start out (conference play) with one of the better teams."

The Colonials (5-1) aren't too shabby themselves thus far, despite having six new players on the roster. Their only loss was in their first road game of the year, a two-point decision dropped to Stony Brook (N.Y.) the night before Thanksgiving.

Robert Morris then went on to defeat Elon in a close game and rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat Delaware State at the East Carolina Thanksgiving Classic this past weekend.

"We've been finishing the games well," said sophomore Kelly Hartwell, who came off the bench to help spark the Colonials run against Delaware State. "We've come out with slow starts, but we finish well, pull it together in the second half or near the end."

Buscaglia is stressing consistency after recent games. Turnovers are another concern: They're averaging 21.8 per game, many of them traveling, which the coach believes has to do with the number of foreign-born players on the team (seven) and the difference in the way the violation is called in the United States.

"We're trying to correct that the best we can," Buscaglia said.

In other areas, the Colonials rate much better.

They're currently second in the NEC in scoring offense at 64.7 points per game -- helped in large part by contributions off the bench -- and third in scoring defense at 53.3 points per game. They're second in scoring margin at 11.3, tops in field goal percentage defense at 33 percent and also first in offensive (16.33) and defensive (29.0) rebounding.

"The positives are that there are times when certain players aren't shooting well, others are picking it up," Buscaglia said. "That's part of our team, is that a lot of people can help pick us up."

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