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Robert Morris women draw defending national champion UConn

Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, March 14, 2016, 7:53 p.m.
Robert Morris' Mikalah Mulrain shoots over Farleigh Dickinson's Anastasia Williams during the NEC Women's Tournament on Sunday, March 6, 2016, at Sewall Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Mikalah Mulrain shoots over Farleigh Dickinson's Anastasia Williams during the NEC Women's Tournament on Sunday, March 6, 2016, at Sewall Center.

The cheer that erupted inside the All-Star Sports Bar Grille in Robinson on Monday night when the Robert Morris women learned their NCAA Tournament fate was loud enough to be a celebration.

Apparently, they don't mind that their task looks to be insurmountable.

No. 16 seeded Robert Morris (20-12), champion of the Northeast Conference Tournament, will play three-time defending champion Connecticut at 11 a.m. Saturday in the first round of the tournament in Storrs, Conn. It will be Robert Morris' fourth NCAA appearance and the second in the past three years.

The No. 1-seeded Huskies (32-0), riding a 69-game winning streak, have won 10 national titles and 917 games overall under coach Geno Auriemma.

Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia, who is retiring at the end of the season, understands what awaits his team.

“He is the greatest coach in any sport in the history of sports,” Buscaglia said. “(Geno) has the best players in the world.”

Buscaglia's son Charlie, an assistant with the Colonials, said his players welcome the challenge of guarding UConn's Breanna Stewart, 2015 player of the year, a unanimous All-American and the premier player in the women's collegiate game.

“They'll all raise their hand to guard her,” Charlie Buscaglia said of his players.

Sal Buscaglia said he has encountered Auriemma several times on recruiting trips, sometimes at the same school.

“He was recruiting the best player,” he said. “We were recruiting the third best.”

The younger Buscaglia spent several days with Auriemma last summer at a recruiting event in Chicago. They went to dinner, talked basketball and shared coaching techniques, Charlie said.

“I was trying to figure out why he does things a certain way and he asked me why we do things,” he said.

Charlie, who will follow his father next season as Robert Morris' coach, said the team won't change the way it prepares this week just because the foe is UConn.

“We can't turn it up anymore because we turned it up at the beginning of the season,” he said. “That's why we're here.”

Charlie has been an assistant with his father for all 13 of his years at Robert Morris, working the first four without a paycheck while turning down several job offers from other schools.

“I wasn't born on third base,” he said.

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