UConn routs RMU women 101-49 in Buscaglia's last game as coach
STORRS, Conn. — If the Robert Morris women's basketball team had visions of a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament, they probably were dashed a week ago when the brackets were announced.
Saturday proved to be a mere formality.
Undefeated and three-time defending national champion Connecticut served notice that it isn't about to sleepwalk in its quest to reach the Final Four, overwhelming an outmanned Robert Morris team 101-49 on Saturday in the first round of the Women's NCAA Tournament.
It was the 70th consecutive win for the top-seeded Huskies, who are aiming for their 11th national title. UConn's Katie Lou Samuelson led all scorers with 22 points, and all five Huskies starters hit double figures. All-Americans Breanna Stewart had 18 points and Moriah Jefferson 14.
Robert Morris got 11 points from Anna Niki Stamolamprou, and senior Ashley Ravelli added eight.
“Ending my career in the NCAA means everything to me,” Ravelli said. “I'm so proud to wear this uniform.”
UConn continued its dominance on its home court. The Huskies have not lost a tournament game in Storrs since 1993 — before any of the current Huskies were born.
UConn's Kia Nurse opened the scoring with a 3-pointer before Megan Smith scored in the lane for 16th-seeded Robert Morris (20-13). With the score 3-2, the rout began.
UConn (33-0) scored the next 22 points, continuously picking off passes with its immense size and speed advantage. The Huskies led 41-4 after the first quarter.
“Those first 10 minutes is about as good as you can start a game and the tournament,” UConn Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma said. “This team is pretty locked in and focused.”
Said Ravelli: “They go to a whole different speed. I can't lie about it. We had to adjust, and in the second half we did a much better job.”
UConn led 64-15 at halftime and forced 20 turnovers and amassed 13 steals. The Huskies also played their second five players for the latter part of the second quarter and a good part of the second half.
The game was the finale for Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia, who spent the last 13 of his 38 years on the sidelines guiding the Colonials to four NCAA berths. Buscaglia finished his career with 706 victories, including seven 20-win seasons at Robert Morris.
He tried in vain to fight off tears during his final news conference while reflecting on his time on the sidelines.
“After 38 years, it's so hard knowing that I'm not going to be doing this anymore,” Buscaglia said. “I'm not Peyton Manning, but it's the same feeling.
“They're such great kids. That's what makes it so hard. We were down by 40 or 50 points, and we're still taking a charge on defense.
“I'm so proud of my players, being down but continuing to play hard to the final horn. I have kids who are the same level as people as UConn does. We're No. 1 with heart and desire. I'm so ecstatic and honored to be here.”
Robert Morris outscored UConn, 25-16, in the final quarter. It was the Colonials' first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2014, when it lost to Notre Dame, 93-42.
The Colonials got six points apiece from Jocelyn Jones and Mikalah Mulrain but were done in by 29 turnovers, which the Huskies turned into 50 points.
Bill Cloutier is a freelance writer.