PREVIEW: Colonials tangle with Norse in first round of Horizon League tournament

Women%27s+basketball+takes+on+Northern+Kentucky+for+the+fifth+time+this+season+in+the+opening+round+of+the+Horizon+League+playoffs.+Photo+Credit%3A+Nick+Hedderick

Women’s basketball takes on Northern Kentucky for the fifth time this season in the opening round of the Horizon League playoffs. Photo Credit: Nick Hedderick

By Adam Melluso, Contributor

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky.– The Robert Morris women’s basketball team (4-12, 4-12 Horizon) look to pave the path to another conference championship and a trip back to the big dance as they’ve done so often as members of the Northeast Conference.

This time, however, the opponents, venue, and even the location are all new to the Colonials, as the newly-minted Horizon League members and 9th overall seed head to the Bluegrass State for a showdown in the opening round of the 2021 Horizon League Women’s Basketball Championship against the 8th-seeded Northern Kentucky Norse (7-10, 7-5) at BB&T Arena, just outside of Cincinnati.

Recapping Robert Morris

The Colonials were able to finish off their final portion of conference play last Saturday, battling back to earn a win and series split against the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons (1-21, 1-19) 77-63 at the Gates Sports Center.

RMU carried a lead as big as 11 points into the final quarter of play but had to fully open up their offense to ensure they emphatically claimed victory. From the start of the 4th, the Colonials went on a blistering 11-0 run to stretch their lead to 22 points within the first three minutes alone.

This was due in large part to RMU’s starters, who each recorded 10 or more points for the first time since November 21, 2008, with Holly Forbes leading the way with 16 points, in addition to Sol Castro (15), Esther Castedo (11), Nina Augustin (10), and Megan Callahan (10) all finding their marks early and often.

Previewing Northern Kentucky

The Norse came away with a strong win of their own in their regular-season finale, taking down Oakland (12-11, 12-8) in an upset this past Saturday afternoon at the Athletics Center O’rena, 88-75. Kailey Coffey, Ivy Turner, Lindsey Duvall, and Grayson Rose all had double-digit efforts in the win as the Norse firmly entrenched their spot in postseason play and secured a meeting with RMU.

Players to Watch

Holly Forbes (RMU) – An offensive powerhouse from the get-go this season, Forbes has proved that she can keep pace with the top scorers in the Horizon League. She fully showcased her talents on Saturday, establishing a new RMU career-high with her 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting, while also playing a team-high 33 minutes, bringing down five rebounds, and notching an assist.

As she has proven to be a strong all-around player, if the Norse are unable to contain Forbes’ scoring touch early, she should be able to pace RMU to a firm lead along with help from her teammates and lead them to a win.

Kailey Coffey (NKU) – The senior has been a cornerstone, particularly in conference play, as to why the Norse, despite their seeding, have a very good chance to go far in the tournament this year. She scored a masterful 27 points and was near-perfect in shooting with a 9-for-10 mark in the win against the Grizzlies this past weekend, while also grabbing seven rebounds and three assists.

If RMU cannot get good defensive pressure onto Coffey early and force her into taking difficult shots, then she will put them in deep trouble early as she did in both of their first two meetings this season, in which the Colonials lost 61-33 and 62-50, respectively.

Prediction

Despite the improvement by RMU in offense during the latter half of the regular season this year, I feel that it will just not be enough this first year in the Horizon League, as NKU defeats the Colonials 55-43 to finish their season. However, this team has many proven scorers on its roster and will only continue to improve over time, to a point where they will soon become contenders for the conference title on a regular basis as they were in the NEC.

All the action between RMU and the Norse tips off at 7:00 p.m. EST on ESPN+. Be sure to stay tuned to colonialsportsnetwork.com and follow @RMU_CSN on Twitter for complete postseason tournament coverage for all RMU athletics teams.