‘It’s very tough that someone has to lose a game like today’ says coach Buscaglia after close NEC Tournament victory

Photo+Credit%3A+Thomas+Ognibene+

Photo Credit: Thomas Ognibene

By Logan Carney, RMU Sentry Media Digital Content Director

MOON TOWNSHIP — Monday started with more of the same for the Robert Morris women’s basketball team (23-7, 17-1 NEC). They hosted their fourth consecutive NEC first-round game, entered with their fourth consecutive NEC regular-season title and honored head coach Charlie Buscaglia with his fourth consecutive NEC Coach of the Year Award.

However, Monday night was a rare test for the Colonials, who have defeated NEC opponents by an average of 19.6 ppg this season, but a strong performance from Wagner (10-20, 6-12 NEC) and some Colonial struggles, made them play from behind for much of the game. Eventually, though, they pulled away with a 65-61 victory in overtime.

“It’s very tough that someone has to lose a game like today,” said Buscaglia. “I give Wagner a ton of credit, they worked hard, and it’s really unfortunate when someone has to lose when they play so hard.”

Wagner led for much of the game. In fact, the Colonials lead of 10-9 in the first quarter was the last lead that they would have till they led 35-34 late in the third. Wagner owed a lot of their success during this stretch to the Colonials’ struggles from the three-point line. Even though they aren’t typically a team who has relied on the three-point shot this season, the Colonials still shot 20% (4-20) in the game, their third-lowest percentage since conference play began, and below their NEC-play average of 28.3%

“I think that’s our own mental battles,” said Nina Augustin. “Today we had to be confident when taking those shots. And like coach said, we were off-pace, especially to start the game, so when you’re off-pace your shots aren’t confident and on-pace. So, that’s what I think is a big part of it.”

The struggles from the three-point line weren’t as big of a factor in the game as the play was down low for the Colonials. Nneka Ezeigbo and Irekpitan Ozzy-Momodu combined for 29 points and 20 rebounds in the game. Furthermore, they drew 11 fouls and shot a combined 69.2% (9-13) from the free-throw line.

“I always talk about how Ozzy and I are close,” said Ezeigbo. “We push each other in practice every day. We play against each other. So it was expected that when I’m out, she’s at the same level as me, and when I’m in, we just play at the same level. We feed off each other, we give each other advice and we trust each other.”

The play of the game didn’t hail from either of the two centers but instead came from the aforementioned Augustin, who scored on a layup following a Colonial timeout to tie the game up at 54 and send the game into overtime. She then went on to score six of the team’s 10 points in overtime, en route to the victory.

“We were just working on it,” said Augustin on the play designed for her to send the game into overtime. “I was just more comfortable on taking it. They were trusting me and they told me, just go, just go. There was no hesitation.”

The Colonials will move on to face fifth-seeded Sacred Heart (13-17, 9-9 NEC) in the next round of the NEC Tournament. Sacred Heart is coming off a 73-70 victory over Saint Francis (11-19, 9-9 NEC) and was the only lower seed to win in the first round of the tournament. The second round will take place this upcoming Thursday night at the UPMC Events Center.