Robert Morris women's basketball preview: Colonials move on without Spanou
There simply is no replacing a player such as Artemis Spanou, and Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia knows that.
The two-time Northeast Conference Player of the Year was not only the Colonials' leading scorer and rebounder, but she also ended her career with four conference and 10 school records. She led the league in rebounding all four years at Robert Morris and is one of just seven players in Division I history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 blocks.
“We've had to learn to play without her, there's no question about it,” said Buscaglia, the reigning NEC Coach of the Year. “Our style has to change. We can't just get the ball in the post and play out of that because Artie got double-teamed. It's a learning process and an ongoing process.”
The Colonials have four starters and nine players back from a team that went 21-12, captured the NEC championship and went to the NCAA Tournament last season. Returners include second-leading scorer Anna-Niki Stamalamprou and center Cassie Oursler, both of whom were named to the NEC All-Rookie team, as well as junior Ashley Ravelli, the conference rookie of the year two years ago.
It's enough of a pedigree that the conference coaches picked the Colonials to repeat as NEC champs.
“It's great and surprising, too, with 10 underclassmen and losing probably the best player to ever play in the Northeast Conference,” Buscaglia said. “To lose a player of that caliber and still be picked No. 1, I feel good about the respect the coaches gave us.”
Oursler said it will take everyone on the floor to make up for what the team lost in Spanou. For her, that means getting more confident with the ball and learning to make her own moves in the post.
“Artie would pass to me, and I'd just go straight up with it,” said Oursler, whose 5.0 rebounds per game ranked second on the team. “Now I'm going to have to make a move one-on-one or even one-on-two and finish, and I'm going to have to improve my rebounding, too.”
The Colonials begin the season with five road games, including the season opener Nov. 16 at No. 19 Iowa. They'll play just three games at home — where they went 16-4 overall and 9-0 in conference — during the nonconference schedule, including a Dec. 14 matchup against Duquesne.
Once the season begins, Stamalamprou said, they'll be the team everyone is looking to beat.
“It's maybe an even bigger target than last year because we won, so everybody is waiting for us,” she said. “But we can get the benefits from the target and the pressure. We need to feel more comfortable, to be ready and need to get better because everybody is coming for us.”