RMU women's basketball eyeing regular-season crown
Heading into the NEC schedule, the Robert Morris women's basketball team had won just two games.
Now in the final stretch, the Colonials (12-11, 10-2 NEC) haven't lost in a month and are vying for the regular-season conference title.
With it comes the opportunity to host throughout the NEC Tournament, with an automatic NCAA Tournament bid going to the winner.
“Our goal right now is to win every single game beginning on Saturday (hosting first-place Central Connecticut State), so we can have home-court advantage,” said sophomore guard Anna Niki Stamalamprou, who leads the team in scoring (15.7 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg). “Just play every single game to win.”
Robert Morris won the regular season and tournament titles last year and went to the NCAA Tournament for the third time since 2006-07.
The Colonials were picked to repeat as champions this season, but learning to play without two-time NEC player of the year Artemis Spanou wasn't easy. Neither was their nonconference schedule, which included games against Iowa, Illinois and Xavier.
“It just took time to get to know each other and know what the best way to play was,” said coach Sal Buscaglia, who recently recorded his 200th victory in 12 seasons with the Colonials. “It was such a dramatic difference from last year having Artemis in the low post to feed off of. She made everybody better, and everything went through her.
“Now I think we've found what's best for us, and we have more confidence in our post play than we initially had. We finally got smart, and we're getting the ball inside more than we ever did.
“I think that's helped us that teams can't just stop our guard play because we have inside play, too.”
That includes utilizing freshman forward Megan Smith, who shared NEC Rookie of the Week honors this week and is second on the team in scoring with nine points per game, as well as sophomore center Judith Sole, who is second on the team in rebounding.
The Colonials have won nine consecutive games and are in second place in the NEC behind Saturday's opponent, Central Connecticut (15-8, 11-1). Third-place Bryant and fourth-place Sacred Heart also await Robert Morris before the regular-season finale March 2 against Wagner.
The Blue Devils won the first meeting against Robert Morris, 63-46, on Jan. 10.
“They've really put it together this year, they really have,” Buscaglia said of CCSU. “We have to defend better than we did the first game against them, and we have to shoot better. We didn't shoot the ball well against them the first time, either. The basic fundamentals.”