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Robert Morris women draw Notre Dame in first round of NCAAs

| Monday, March 13, 2017, 7:54 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Anna Niki Stamolamprou holds the NEC Chmapionship trophy after the Colonials beat Bryant in the NEC championship Sunday, March 12, 2017, at Sewall Center.

The Robert Morris women's basketball team had two reasons to smile Monday night.First, coach Charlie Buscaglia and his players were pleased to see that they won't have to meet defending national champion Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. Last year's game — also in the first round — was no contest as UConn won, 101-49.

But Robert Morris' women were even happier to find out third-ranked, ACC champion and No. 1 seed Notre Dame (30-3) will be the opponent Friday in South Bend, Ind. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.

That also will be a rematch — the Colonials lost to an undefeated Irish team, 93-42, in the 2014 first round in Toledo — but this time they feel better prepared to handle the spotlight.

When the matchup was revealed on ESPN during the team's watch party at the All-Star Sports Bar and Grill in Robinson, senior guard Anna Niki Stamolamprou turned to Buscaglia and said, “I remember this.”Stamolamprou and senior classmates Rebeca Navarro and Janee Brown were starting freshmen in 2014. Armed with the experience of playing UConn last year, nothing should shock the 16th-seeded and Northeast Conference champion Colonials (22-10) this time.

“The only difference is we are playing them on their floor,” Buscaglia said, “so we have to turn up our toughness.”Navarro, who came to Robert Morris from Galicia, Spain, said playing UConn and watching its players carry themselves on and off the floor will benefit the Colonials.

“They are like professionals,” she said. “No joking around. That's something that impressed me. UConn is 100 percent (focused). It's like a job.”

Meanwhile, Brown hopes to add to her school record for games played (128), but she has a high-ankle sprain and didn't play in the recently completed NEC Tournament.

“Hopefully, I'll be ready to do a little something. I'm staying positive,” she said.

Buscaglia said he hasn't watched Notre Dame this season.

“I haven't watched anybody unless they came across us in our scouting,” he said. “I'll be watching a lot of them this week.”

He said the key to playing a national power such as Notre Dame is to not get intimidated early.

“They are going to try to do things to you that are really going to make it difficult,” he said. “You have to ready for that.

“You have to be ready to do what you can do to make sure you don't let them feel they can just put you away in the first five minutes.” Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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