Robert Morris women overwhelmed by Notre Dame in 1st round of NCAA Tournament
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It wasn't a matter of the stage being too big or the lights too bright.
The 16th-seeded Robert Morris women's basketball team played with passion and poise throughout Friday night's game, at times noticeably more than its top-seeded opponent. The Colonials also kept the score surprisingly close at points in their first-round NCAA Tournament matchup with Notre Dame.
It wasn't until the third quarter that the second-ranked Fighting Irish could exploit their size, speed and home-court advantages and shake loose for a 79-49 victory at Purcell Pavilion.
It's the closest final margin of Robert Morris' five NCAA appearances and the narrowest score the Irish have experienced in their seven 1-vs.-16 matchups.
“We're not going to watch that film,” bristled Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “We're just going to move on.”
Ninth-seeded Purdue dispatched No. 8 seed Green Bay, 74-62, in the site opener. That earned the Boilermakers (23-12) a second-round matchup with Notre Dame (31-3) on Sunday.
RMU senior Anna Niki Stamolamprou led all scorers with 19 points, including a four-point play a minute into the third quarter to pull the Colonials within 13 at 42-29.
The Irish answered with a 9-2 burst, and RMU could get no closer than 17.
Stamolamprou settles into the Robert Morris record books as the school's career leader in 3-pointers made (283), with five more Friday night, and No. 2 in scoring (1,815) behind fellow Greece native Artemis Spanou (2,124).
Sophomore Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale lead four ND players in double figures with 15 points apiece. The nation's No. 2 shooting team converted 52 percent of its attempts and outrebounded the smaller Colonials, 52-23.
Brianna Turner, a 6-foot-3 junior, added 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for Notre Dame.
“Turner takes away so much at the rim,” first-year RMU coach Charlie Buscaglia said. “She had blocks, but she changed a lot of them, too. She's long, athletic, had great coordination and that really hurt us.
“So we had to shoot the ball from the perimeter, and we didn't shoot the ball as well as we usually have.”
Robert Morris missed its first nine shots from the field and finished at a .266 clip for the game.
“Notre Dame is a great team,” Stamolamprou said. “They came out strong, but we said, ‘Let's play our game now.' So we had a heart to come back.”
The Irish, making their 22nd straight NCAA tourney appearance and sixth in a row as a No. 1 seed, surged with 12 straight points and finished the first quarter up 24-12.
“I felt we really knew who were coming into this game,” Buscaglia said. “We were going to go out and do what we've been doing all year, and we were going to battle. We're not scared to go out there and be who we are.”
Eric Hansen is a freelance writer.