Women’s basketball dominates Fairleigh Dickinson


Photo credit: Samuel Anthony

Luke Yost, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– “We came out and set a great tone.” That is how Robert Morris Head Coach Charlie Buscaglia described this game.

The Robert Morris Colonials (5-8, 2-0) took care of business against Fairleigh Dickinson (3-10, 0-2). RMU rolled to a 71-49 win over their conference foe.

“Every game we come out and tell each other that we have to set the tone for the game,” said Junior forward Nneka Ezeigbo, “We have to come out and play great defense every possession and have a good pace on offense. That was our goal and I felt that we met it when we came out in the first quarter.”

The message was simple: set the tone of the game. In that aspect, Robert Morris did not disappoint.

Fairleigh Dickinson opened the scoring with a layup by junior forward, Jenna Clark. Then the Colonials showed why they were a favorite to win the Northeast Conference. Robert Morris went on a remarkable 18-0 run for the rest of the first quarter. In this quarter, RMU’s defense forced the Knights to turn the ball over nine times. Nneka Ezeigbo along with sophomores Honoka Ikematsu and Laura Carrasco did their parts by having two steals apiece. The Colonials went to their bench early and often. Freshmen Natalie Villaflor and Esther Castedo both contributed in the first quarter. Each of them added three-point buckets. Robert Morris ended the first quarter riding an 18-2 lead.

“I never talk about the word comfort with them,” Coach Buscaglia on his comfort level going to the bench, “I always talk about the opportunity you’ll earn to go into the game early when you put in the work at practice and have a great attitude. That’s what (Villaflor) has been doing. I gave her that opportunity to come and get in there right away. As a freshman to have that responsibility because of her attitude, no matter if she’s making a mistake or a great play, is alway to come back and try for that next play.”

The momentum didn’t carry over to start the second quarter as FDU tried to climb out of the hole they dug in the first quarter. The Knights went on a seven to three run to open the second quarter. A quick Robert Morris time-out reset the Colonials. RMU then went on another explosive run. Fairleigh Dickinson was unable to keep up with a 22-2 run by Robert Morris. 10 of these points came from the Colonials bench. Irekpitan Ozzy-Momodu added six points off the bench in the second quarter. Esther Castedo would also finish the quarter with six points off the bench in the first half. An unsung hero of the first half was Isabella Posset. Posset finished the half with seven points, four rebounds and four assists. The Colonials headed to the locker room with a comfortable 40-11 lead.

Perhaps a rousing halftime speech by head coach Peter Cinella was all the Knights need to get their offense started going in the second half. FDU made five threes, on their way to nearly doubling their first-half scoring. The Knights would outscore the Colonials 21-20 in the third quarter. The forwards of Robert Morris began to take over. Ezeigbo and Ozzy-Momodu headed into the fourth quarter with identical stat lines. The forwards each posted 10 points and eight rebounds. Honoka Ikematsu was doing her part on the scoreboard by adding nine points. The Knights need a herculean effort in the fourth quarter to overcome a 60-32 deficit.

The Knights rode their momentum into the fourth, and final, quarter. They were led by junior, Lauren Francillon. Francillon would finish with four three-pointers, on her way to a season-high 20 points. Madelynn Comly made a free throw that got the Knights within 25 points of the Colonials. Comly would also go on to set a new season high with 14 points. The Knights outscored the Colonials in the second half 38-31. That would not be enough to overcome the eventful first half from the Colonials. Robert Morris won this game 71-49.

Coach Buscaglia felt that there was room for improvement despite the big win.

“In the second half we played in spurts,” mentioned Buscaglia, “We need to play for 40 minutes. We played for 20 very well. In the second half, we played in spurts.”

A highlight for the Colonials would be their interior play. Nneka Ezeigbo recorded her first double-double of the season. Ezeigbo finished the game with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“I just kinda felt it,” Ezeigbo when talking about her performance, “Plus the energy I received from my teammates helped out too.”

Not to be outdone Irekpitan Ozzy-Momodu came close to her third double-double of the season. Ozzy-Momodu finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Colonials look to make it three in a row, when they travel to New York, to face St. Francis Brooklyn (8-6, 2-0). That game is slated for Saturday, January 12 at 1:00 p.m.