Women’s basketball looks for first Horizon League win in second matchup vs. IUPUI

Nina+Augustin+and+the+Colonials+will+be+in+search+of+a+split+of+the+IUPUI+series+later+today.+Photo+Credit%3A+Thomas+Ognibene

Nina Augustin and the Colonials will be in search of a split of the IUPUI series later today. Photo Credit: Thomas Ognibene

By Austin Bechtold, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– 2020 was not all too kind to the Robert Morris women’s basketball team with the COVID-19 pandemic ending any chance of a final NEC Tournament crown, and an 0-4 record to begin Horizon League competition. The first day of 2021 also started off on the wrong foot for the Colonials (0-5, 0-5 Horizon), after a New Year’s Day home loss to IUPUI (7-1, 5-0).

Recapping RMU

The Colonials dropped their Horizon League home opener in their first-ever conference game within the confines of the UPMC Events Center 71-49 to the IUPUI Jaguars. The Colonials’ struggles continued in the first half and were down early on, trailing 27-17 after only the first quarter. RMU was outscored 25-9 in the second quarter, leading to a 52-26 halftime deficit. Robert Morris played better in the second half, but it was too little too late to change the overall outcome of the game. The team outscored IUPUI 23-19 in the second half and 13-7 in the fourth quarter.

Esther Castedo and Nina Augustin lead the way for the Colonials on the stat sheet, both recording nine points each in the matchup. No Colonial finished in double-figures. Holly Forbes also contributed eight points and a team-high seven rebounds.

RMU’s defense, which was the leading reason why the program consistently dominated NEC competition, has not been as consistent as in the past. The team was still able to force 17 turnovers and recorded nine steals. The offense also needs to step up take some pressure off the Colonial defense. Changing conferences and the loss of both Nneka Ezeigbo and Iré Ozzy-Momodu are partly to blame but with more exposure to the Horizon League’s programs the better opportunity for head coach Charlie Buscaglia to make the necessary adjustments that made his teams thrive in the NEC.

Scouting the Jaguars

IUPUI continues to prove why they were named preseason favorites to win the Horizon League regular-season crown. The Jaguars are 5-0 to begin conference play and come into Saturday’s game 7-1 with their only loss of the season coming at Notre Dame on December 6 by a narrow margin of 65-58.

The team outplayed Robert Morris in many key statistical categories and shot an impressive 57.7% from the floor and an eye-popping 53.8% from behind the arc. The Jaguars also outrebounded RMU 34-21 but struggled at the free-throw line, shooting only 44.4%. This was the first Horizon League road test for the program, defeating Purdue Fort-Wayne and Cleveland State twice each by margins of 20 points or more.

Players to Watch

Nina Augustin (RMU) – The senior guard is playing a key role for the Colonials this season on the offensive, scoring a team-high 8.0 points per game. Augustin has started all five games for RMU and also is a defensive leader for Robert Morris. Augustin will have to take her play to an even higher level to be able to lead the Colonials to their first-ever conference victory.

Holly Forbes (RMU) – Like Augustin, Forbes has started all five games for the Colonials and needs to step up as a senior leader. The forward is averaging 4.8 points per game, the same as her career average, and leads the team with 4.0 rebounds per game. Only averaging the same amount of points as last year, Forbes needs to up her production to boost the Colonials offense.

Macee Williams (IUPUI) – Williams, a senior forward, has been the most productive player for the Jaguars this season, and is showing why she was named to the preseason All-League First Team. She recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds in Friday’s matchup and is averaging 18.6 PPG and 9.3 RPG this year. Look for Williams to be the leading factor in IUPUI’s success on both ends of the floor.

Rachel McLimore (IUPUI) – Redshirt junior forward Rachel McLimore has also been a key factor in the Jaguars’ early-season success. McLimore produced 15 points and a team-high five assists in the last matchup against the Colonials and has been a significant contributor on defense for IUPUI. Look for this solid all-around player to have another strong game in the UPMC Events Center Saturday.

Prediction

IUPUI is too tough to handle for a Colonials team struggling to find a new identity, let alone their first win, in the Horizon League this season. After losing by 22 points on New Year’s Day, the Colonials will bounce back slightly, but still not find enough offense to defeat the Jaguars. Robert Morris will, however, become the first conference team to hold IUPUI within 20 points as the margin of victory.

IUPUI wins 75-57 over the Colonials.