Second half implosion costs Robert Morris second place

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Kyle Gorcey

Megan Smith's 17 points helped her team take down the Golden Flashes on the road at Kent State.

Vince Russo, Staff Reporter

Led by the nation’s scoring leader Jasmine Nwajei’s 28 points, the Wagner Seahawks (7-22, 5-13) stormed back from a 13 point halftime deficit to shock the heavily favored Robert Morris Colonials (15-14, 13-5), 66-60.

What made the victory that much more impressive was that it was done in the Charles L. Sewell Center, where the Colonials were unbeaten since 2012 and 83-15 over the last decade in conference play heading into Monday night’s contest.

“Very disappointed, there’s really no excuse for it,” said head coach Sal Buscaglia. “I’m baffled by the effort. We had much more higher expectations.”

With the Bryant Bulldogs defeating the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils, 55-53, just seconds before the conclusion of the game in Moon Twp., Robert Morris would have secured second place and a Northeast Conference (NEC) co-championship with the other two teams.

With the loss, however, the Colonials miss out on the championship, and are now the number three seed heading into the postseason conference tournament, where they will host the six seeded Fairleigh Dickenson Knights.

“I think Wagner got into our heads a lot, and I think we were worried about them more than ourselves. And that kind of made us veer off and not stay together as a unit,” said freshman Megan Smith.

Everything started out as one would expect, with Robert Morris jumping out to an early lead behind a quick eight points by Smith to give the home team a 10-4 lead at the 15:41 mark of the first half. It was what would be expected after Robert Morris thrashed Wagner 86-47 in Staten Island, N.Y. Nwajei was held to a season-low 3 points in that game, where she shot 1-of-13 from the field, including 0-of-7 from behind the three point line.

While Nwajei had 14 of the Seahawks 21 first half points, it took her 17 attempts from the field and over a tough man-to-man defense by the Colonials. That, paired with an 11-of-23 performance from the field (47.8 percent) gave the Colonials a 34-21 advantage at the break, despite 10 first half turnovers.

After that, it was all Seahawks. With two three pointers within the first minute, the Colonials were put back on their heels, and never looked comfortable or collected for the remainder of the game. They remained ahead of Wagner until two Tanasia Russell free throws nodded the contest at 48 with 9:33 remaining.

Just 12 seconds later, Russell would steal the ball from Colonial junior guard Ashley Ravelli and score a layup while being fouled by freshman center Mikayla Mulrain, giving the Seahawks their first lead since 2-0 at the 19:27 mark. Russell, a freshman, would finish with 10 points and seven rebounds.

They would not look back from there, as they forced Ravelli into a 1-of-7 shooting performance that kept hot hands Smith (5-of-7 from the field for the day) and sophomore star Anna Nikki Stamolamprou (7-of-15, eighth in country in three point percentage) from getting going late in the game.

In what was an unusual showing of nerves late in the game, the vocal leader Ravelli missed two free throws that could have tied the game up at 59 with 2:41 remaining. Coming into the game, Ravelli had made 24 of her 25 attempts, a sterling 96 percent.

Junior Jordyn Peck added 12 points towards the winning effort for Wagner, while the Colonials were led by both Stamolamprou and Smith with 16 points each in the loss. Sophomore sharp shooter Rebecca Navarro also reached double figures with 11 points.

“They have to right the ship. We have done everything that we could possible…use in all my years of experience to put them in the proper place, both x’s and o’s, y’s and everything else,” said Buscaglia. “It all comes down to we have to play harder. We have to want it more. And we have to practice harder, and we have to focus better. The excuse that we are young should no longer be an excuse.”

In what could be seen as a trap game, Stamolamprou added that, “we kept on focusing on the playoffs instead of the game we were playing today. You could see that from our four last games that we lost three of them because we kept focusing on the playoffs.”

The win marks the end to the Seahawks season, while Robert Morris will host Farleigh Dickenson on Sunday as aforementioned. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.