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Robert Morris women rally to reach NEC semifinals

| Sunday, March 9, 2014, 4:55 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris forward Artemis Spanou goes for a loose ball near LIU Brooklyn forward Genise Presley Sunday, March, 9, 2014. Number one seed Robert Morris won 65-49 in the first round of the Northeast Conference Tournament at the Sewall Center.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris forward Kelly Hartwell outwrestles LIU Brooklyn guard Kelly Robinson Sunday, March, 9, 2014. Number one seed Robert Morris won 65-49 in the first round of the Northeast Conference Tournament at the Sewall Center.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris teammates Ashley Ravelli (center) and Janee Brown chase down the ball as they battle LIU Brooklyn guard Cleandra Roberts Sunday, March, 9, 2014. Number one seed Robert Morris won 65-49 in the first round of the Northeast Conference Tournament at Sewall Center.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris head coach Sal Buscaglia instructs his team against LIU Brooklyn Sunday, March, 9, 2014. Number one seed Robert Morris won 65-49 in the first round of the Northeast Conference Tournament at the Sewall Center.

A game that started as an upset in the making ended up a win as the top-seeded Robert Morris women defeated No. 8 LIU Brooklyn, 65-49, in the Northeast Conference Tournament quarterfinals Sunday at Sewall Center.

Not surprisingly, it was senior Artemis Spanou who sparked the Colonials after they struggled to score against the Blackbirds' triangle-and-two defense in the first half.

With Robert Morris (19-11) trailing 31-24 at halftime, Spanou scored seven points in the first 3:30 of the second half and closed the gap to two points. LIU coach Gail Striegler called timeout, and the Blackbirds (9-21) came out of it to score after a steal and make it 35-31. But freshman center Cassie Oursler scored her first points of the game, and freshman Anna Niki Stamolamprou scored to tie it, 35-35.

Spanou gave Robert Morris its first lead, 37-35, with 14:27 remaining, and the Colonials led the rest of the way.

“One thing I said to my teammates (at halftime) was I'm not ready to go home yet,” Spanou said. “I'm not ready to quit and give up right now. We were only seven points back.”

Colonials senior Kelly Hartwell stole the ball and passed to Stamolamprou to open a four-point lead. Later, Stamolamprou hit a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound by Spanou, and Robert Morris led 42-35 with 13 minutes to play.

The Colonials, who did not lead in the first half, shot 61.3 percent (19 of 31) from the field and outscored the Blackbirds, 41-18, in the second half.

They will host No. 4 Bryant (17-13) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Spanou led Robert Morris with 22 points and 15 rebounds and added three blocks, two steals and two assists.

It was her 26th double-double of the season and the 87th of her career.

Stamolamprou had 14 points in her first postseason game and Hartwell finished with 10 points off the bench.

“Artemis is our leader and our captain,” Stamolamprou said. “She helped us to get going and play hard. She's big motivation for me.”

Sophomore Sophie Bhasin led the Blackbirds with 14 points off the bench. Senior Cleandra Roberts had 13 points, and junior Kelly Robinson added 12.

The Colonials defeated LIU Brooklyn in both of their regular-season meetings, but the Blackbirds switched from the press they typically play to the new-look defense and opened up an 8-2 lead five minutes into the first half as Robert Morris made just one of its first seven shots.

The Blackbirds' lead grew to as many as 12 points with 2:19 to play in the first half.

Striegler said the triangle-and-two gave the Colonials a hard time, but they figured it out in the second half.

“And they had some people hit some shots in the second half,” she said. “They made some nice adjustments.”

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