Robert Morris Matches Best Start Since 1980-81 with Win Over Wheeling

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The bench celebrates a three-point basket in the 87-48 Photo credit: Sydney Riker

By Nathan Breisinger, Editor in Chief

MOON TOWNSHIP — An opportunity to start 4-0 for the first time since 1980-81 was on the table for the Robert Morris women’s basketball team Monday night. The Colonials cashed in with an emphatic 87-48 win over the Wheeling Cardinals.

In back-to-back games, Robert Morris (4-0) convincingly took care of Division III and Division II teams, respectively. However, the Colonials did not want to take a 2-0 Wheeling (2-1) team scoring over 70 points per game lightly.

“This was a challenge for us with three games in five days,” head coach Charlie Buscaglia said. “We knew [Wheeling] would come out with a lot of confidence. I had to go over a few things very seriously all the way up through shoot around and the response was great. The attitude was great and we were very focused.”

With the Colonials locked in against the Cardinals, it was the three-point shooting that sparked the offense. Against Waynesburg, the Colonials relied on points in the paint with only two three-pointers, but against Wheeling, the Colonials slid out of their outside shooting slouch, making 12 of 26 beyond the arc.

“You can’t just live with the fact that we score around the basket,” Buscaglia said. “If you do, teams are going to see that and if you are not willing to shoot the ball from the outside and knock them down, they are going to have a lot of schemes to disrupt you.”

Setting the tone for the Colonials from three-point range was Mackenzie Amalia who nailed three of four from the outside, leading to a season-high 12 points. Entering the game, Amalia was in her own slump after only making 17 percent of her three-point attempts.

“I definitely have been struggling from the three but I came into the game and told myself ‘I’m going to keep shooting the ball, I’m going to keep having my confidence and not let it knock me down,” Amalia said.

As currently the lone starting junior – with Sol Castro continuing to nurse a lower-body injury – Amalia has seen an increased role as a leader. Amalia touched on her increased role this season for the Colonials.

“I’ve been a leader my whole life,” Amalia said. “Freshman year and sophomore year was a much more laid back leadership for me, but I’m excited to be back in that role to keep my teammates going and the energy up.”

Mackenzie Amalia had 12 points in the 87-48 win over Wheeling (Photo by Sydney Riker)

Not only was Amalia a factor offensively, but she also stood out on the defensive end of the court, recording two steals and transitioning the ball to the offense.

“Once we set the tone on defense that’s when we can get our transition runs,” Amalia said. “I love trying to be gritty, go after the ball, get the ball and then get the run.”

With the remainder of the roster as sophomores and freshmen, each player on their own has stepped up over the course of the ripe season. In the win over Wheeling, sophomore forward Danielle Vuletich matched a career-high 15 points. Vuletich also posted a career-best, knocking down two shots from outside the arc.

Buscaglia touched on the development of Vuletich and her impact coming off the bench.

“She had one year to develop last year. As a sophomore, she is taking that experience and her pace and confidence is much better. She knows the things she does well within the offense and on defense. She’s focused on getting better, so it’s good to see her have moments like she did today knocking down the three.”

As the Colonials matched the 4-0 start from decades ago, Buscaglia does not look just at the record, but at how the team has progressed through the quick start to the season.

“First couple games were tighter games,” Buscaglia said. “If we were 0-4, I really look at how we are playing and how we are getting better and developing. We kept our turnovers down and we shot better.”

Along with team development, Buscaglia has seen early growth from the freshman through the first four contests. Candela Rabadan Solis exemplified that with a strong all-around game, including two three-pointers on the night.

“To see these younger guys come out like [Candela Rabadan] Solis to have five assists and no turnovers as a freshman is really important for us,” Buscaglia said.

As the Colonials have over a week off before their next contest, they will continue to work towards maintaining a perfect season.

“Win or loss, we got to know how to handle it and right now we need to know how to handle winning and come back humble,” Buscaglia said. “We have a stretch that we got to get better during this time off. We cannot let winning take us down from our standards.”

After the early-season break, Robert Morris returns to the court on Nov. 23 when the Colonials travel to Akron for a 6 p.m. tip.