PREVIEW: Women’s basketball looks to sweep homestand against Youngstown State

Women%27s+basketball+hosts+Youngstown+State+this+weekend.+Photo+Credit%3A+Nick+Hedderick

Women’s basketball hosts Youngstown State this weekend. Photo Credit: Nick Hedderick

By Austin Bechtold, Assistant Sports Editor

MOON TOWNSHIP– After their most successful weekend in program history since joining the Horizon League, Robert Morris Women’s basketball returns to the hardwood at the UPMC Events Center against their most common historical conference opponent. The Colonials (2-8, 2-8 Horizon) will host Youngstown State (5-3, 5-3) for a two-game set beginning Friday at 7 p.m. and concluding Saturday at 5 p.m. The two teams last faced off November 13, 2019, with RMU taking down the Penguins 58-43 in Youngstown.

Recapping Robert Morris

The Colonials struggled to find any consistent success throughout the entire 2020-21 season up until last weekend, hosting Wright State (9-5, 9-3) after the two teams squared off in Dayton the week before. RMU dropped both road contests against the Raiders, leading to two statement victories back home on the Peoples Court.

The team took down Wright State 50-43 on the back of freshman star Sol Castro, who set early career highs with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Castro’s first double-double set the tone for Robert Morris, clinching the Colonials’ best team-rebounding performance of the season, bringing down 41 boards and an almost even ratio with the Raiders (42-41).

RMU’s defense smothered the Wright State offense at various key moments in the matchup, as Jada Roberson and K.K. White combined to shoot an abysmal 2-23 from the floor. Castro contributed another 20 points in the victory. Megan Callahan stepped up as well, providing game a game-clinching floater in the late final minutes of the fourth quarter along with spectacular defense throughout the weekend.

The Colonials forced 18 Wright State turnovers in game two to set the tone for the defensive battle. Despite the high score, which resulted in RMU’s most points of the season, the effort on defense was very noticeable, with shooters making tough shots over defenders to run up the score.

Callahan and Nina Augustin recorded 12 and 10 points, respectively, driving the Colonial backcourt to one of their best showings all season. Despite the loss of Honoka Ikematsu to injury, RMU guards are discovering new ways to flourish at the right times these past few games.

Scouting Youngstown State

The Penguins have only played eight games to this point in the season, but are riding a five-game winning streak into Moon Township with no sign of slowing down. The Penguins took down Oakland (8-7, 8-4) in game two of their back-to-back, before sweeping a four-game home-and-home series over IUC. All but one of the victories were by over double digits, with YSU keeping control of the game late in the fourth quarter by a comfortable margin.

Youngstown State is shooting 44.5-percent from the field and 35.8-percent from downtown, scoring almost 66 points-per-game in the process. The Penguins are also 2-0 on the road, with a small sample size of only taking on the Flames away from the Beeghly Center.

Like Robert Morris, Youngstown State scan struggle on the boards, bringing down 33.4 boards-per-matchup. The Penguins and Colonials match-up fairly similar to each other, with the scrappier defensive and rebounding team ultimately going to come out on top with two victories.

Players to Watch

Sol Castro (RMU) – Castro has been a force the past few games both offensively and defensively for the Colonials. The reigning Horizon League Freshman of the Week averaged 21.5 points-per-game and 8.0 rebounds-per-game to take home her first collegiate award. She was the first freshman to record 20 or more points since Ikematsu did so during the 2017-18 campaign. Castro will once again look to guide RMU to two more wins, with her vocal leadership and scoring ability leading the way.

Nina Augustin (RMU) – Augustin was struggling in her last few series, even being shutout on the scoresheet by Wright State in game one. She responded massively with her most points of the season (12), and only one turnover, the least all season to this point. Augustin’s defense is the best part of her game and if she can once again turn strong defense into good offense the Colonials will be in good shape against the Penguins.

Nneka Obiazor (YSU) – Like Castro, Obiazor has been a freshman sensation for YSU, but has put up even better statistical performances. The forward is averaging 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds, both team highs. Obiazor is shooting a strong 48.8 percent and has started all eight games for the Penguins in her first season. Watch for her to light up the stat sheet once against if YSU is going to continue their winning ways.

Mary Dunn (YSU) – Dunn has also had a nice year for the Penguins, shooting 47-percent from the field. The redshirt senior from Trinity High School in Washington, Pennsylvania scored in double figures every game against the Flames and is averaging 12.6 points on the season. Dunn, another forward, will need to succeed on the boards and around the basket to guide the Penguins to a sixth and potentially seventh win in a row.

Prediction

Despite Youngstown State riding a five-game win-streak, Robert Morris is starting to find their stride after two statement victories over Wright State. Even though it only marks the program’s first two wins of the season, the Colonials’ defeats were to the four top teams in the conference, including Wright State.

It was tough sledding entering the Horizon League, but the RMU’s tough early schedule has prepared them for the back-half of the season to prove they belong. Robert Morris will struggle a bit in game one but pull-away late for a 64-60 victory in the final seconds before winning by a 10 point margin, 58-48, in the series finale.

Friday’s action (Jan. 29) will tip-off at 7 p.m. while Saturday (Jan. 30) begins at 5 p.m. with the Colonials closing out this four-game homestand.