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RMU senior Spanou covets NEC title while rewriting school's record books

| Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 11:12 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Artemis Spanou drives to the basket during practice Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at Sewall Center.

Just three games into the 2013-14 season, senior Artemis Spanou already has set one major record at Robert Morris and is well on her way to another.

Spanou, a 6-foot-2 forward, became the Colonials' all-time leading rebounder Sunday in a win over Coppin State with 1,127 boards and counting, passing Elise James' record of 1,120 set in 2000.

Before long, she also could become the school's all-time leading scorer. Spanou has 1,549 points, which puts her third behind James (1,563) and Laura Lindak, who scored a school-record 1,633 points from 1989-94.

But what really matters to Spanou is winning a Northeast Conference championship. The native of Greece wants that more than anything.

“Really bad. Really, really bad,” Spanou said after a 31-point, 17-rebound performance against Marshall on Nov. 12. “And I will do everything I can with this group to win that ring.”

The Colonials, who finished 10th in the NEC last season, are 2-1 entering Saturday's game with visiting Maryland Baltimore County.

Now in her fourth year with Robert Morris, Spanou has left opponents searching for an answer.

As a freshman, she started in all 30 games, averaged 13.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, was named rookie of the week six times and, ultimately, the NEC Rookie of the Year.

Spanou was named the NEC Player of the Week on Monday for the sixth time in her career after averaging 24 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in two games. She also has recorded a double-double in each of her past 27 games, the second-longest streak in Division I history.

“Some coaches play me one-on-one, other coaches play me with bigger girls, other coaches play me with shorter girls, some coaches do triple-teams,” said Spanou, who was last season's NEC Player of the Year. “I don't know what other people think about playing me, I just know that every time I go in there I read the defense, see what I have open. And if I have a one-on-one move I'll take it and score and if not, I'll pass it to one of my teammates to score. It's easy. It's basketball.”

When Spanou arrived in the U.S., both her defense and her temperament needed some work. The defensive deficiencies are typical of European players coming to the states, coach Sal Buscaglia said. The mental part was a matter of growing up and gaining experience.

“Before, she would get very frustrated if things didn't go her way or a call didn't go her way,” Buscaglia said. “She still has her downfalls at times, but we work on it every day in practice, helping her to not get frustrated with herself, her teammates or a foul call. That's life. Life doesn't always go your way. She's getting better and better at that.”

The Colonials were picked to win the NEC, but Buscaglia said he keeps telling his team they're not as good as that prediction yet. They have the talent, he said, but with three freshmen starting last week and Lou Mataly working back from a knee injury, they still are learning to play with one other.

Spanou takes seriously her responsibility to help that process along.

“It's a new team, and I need to be a leader for them,” she said. “That's my first goal, being a good leader and keeping everybody together on the court. And then, as I've said before, win the championship.”

Buscaglia believes Spanou could have a professional career ahead of her, but he knows that going out on top is her focus now.

“In my 37 years coaching I can list five or six kids who just wanted that ring very, very badly,” Buscaglia said. “Most got it. I think she doesn't want to be the one or two that didn't get it.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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