Strong defensive presence gives Robert Morris a 50-44 win over UIC


Simone Morris drives to the hoop against UIC. Photo credit: Tyler Gallo

By Robert Bradley, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– The Robert Morris Colonials (7-8, 5-5 Horizon) faced off against Horizon League rival UIC (2-11, 1-7) at the UPMC Events Center on Sunday afternoon. The Colonials looked to bounce back after a 63-44 loss on Friday to IUPUI.

At the start of the first quarter, Esther Castedo swished a three-pointer seconds after the tip-off. The rest of the quarter seemed evenly matched; the defense controlled the game early on.

RMU continued to grind out offensive production when Alejandra Mastral assisted Ashya Klopfenstein with a beautiful under-the-hoop pass for the easy bucket. However, the next two of the following three possessions resulted in turnovers; a blocked shot and a shot clock violation against the Colonials.

Nonetheless, both teams showed effective defensive game plans, as the first quarter ended with UIC leading by two.

At the beginning of the second quarter, RMU started with the ball and made it count, as Phoenix Gedeon swished an amazing mid-range shot. Shortly after, UIC came back with a mid-range make of their own.

The defensive prowess for both teams continued to shine. Following consecutive stops on both ends, Mackenzie Amalia drained a three-point jumper to put RMU within one point of UIC.

The remaining six minutes of the first half turned into a stalemate; both teams drained three-pointers and forced turnovers through steals and blocks. Klopfenstein finished the half by blocking the final shot by UIC. At halftime, the Colonials trailed the Flames by just one point.

At the start of the third quarter, the Colonials hoped to improve on their 35.7 percent shooting from the field. UIC started the half with the ball and converted on an easy layup by Ky Dempsey-Toney. The Colonials answered back emphatically with a lay-in by Sol Castro.

After the layup, the Colonials defense had three consecutive steals, one coming from Castedo and two by Klopfenstein. Then, UIC’s third consecutive turnover led to a beautiful three-pointer make by Mastral.

The Colonials offense started to click after struggling in the first half by taking the lead halfway through the third quarter.

Following consecutive makes by Natalie Villaflor, the tide began to turn in RMU’s favor. The Colonials’ offense began to be too much for the UIC defense to handle as they suddenly took a ten-point lead.

The rest of the third quarter saw both teams miss shots and turn the ball over; however, RMU maintained their lead. The third quarter ended with a score of 38-31.

Robert Morris began the fourth and final quarter with possession. Following Esther Castedo’s made free throws, UIC came back with a three-pointer. However, that did not matter, as Mackenzie Amalia answered by draining a three-ball of her own, helping RMU sustain their seven-point lead.

After this sequence, the UIC defense began to pressure the RMU offense with a full-court press defense.

The RMU offense was seamlessly unbothered by the extra pressure. A rebound and score by Klopfenstein forced UIC to take a timeout with about six minutes left in the contest.

When play resumed, UIC managed to score as the shot clock expired. However, despite a Flames bucket, the RMU defense looked strong in the games’ final five minutes.

The remainder of the game was a chess match; both defenses played intelligently, forcing multiple turnovers. Regardless of RMU’s solid defensive presence, an and-one by UIC’s Jaida McCloud turned the game into a three-point differential.

Following two RMU defensive fouls, the Flames missed three of four free throws, allowing RMU to maintain a 46-44 lead with just under two minutes to spare.

The game’s final two minutes were nail-biting; the RMU defense forced an errant UIC pass. Although RMU did not convert on this turnover, the clock bled down to forty-five seconds remaining.

Nevertheless, the next UIC possession saw a team struggle to spread out the court; RMU played lockdown defense and forced a shot-clock violation with thirty-two seconds left in the game.

The proceeding UIC possession led to the RMU defense forcing a charge call, giving the Colonials’ possession with thirty seconds left.

The Colonials’ Nina Augustin made one of two free throws at the line after a UIC foul; this gave RMU a three-point lead with twenty-eight seconds to play.

Immediately following the RMU free throw attempts, UIC needed a three-point play to even the game. Unfortunately for UIC, RMU’s Esther Castedo forced another charge call under the basket, giving RMU possession once again.

UIC fouled Robert Morris’s Natalie Villaflor, who made one of two free throws to give the Colonials a four-point lead. The Colonials closed out the game with a last-second block.

The Colonials will be back in action next Thursday when they face off against Youngstown State at 7:00 p.m. to end their brief three-game homestand.