Since winning 11 consecutive Northeast Conference games this season, the Robert Morris women’s basketball team (15-13, 13-4) had lost two consecutive match-ups, dropping the Colonials out of first place in the conference.
Today, as per Senior Day tradition, RMU honored the only senior player on the roster, forward Jolie Olingende, before the game. Despite not entering the game, Olingende could not have asked for much more than a victory.
And she got it.
Robert Morris survived a slug fest Sat. afternoon in the Charles L. Sewall Center, defeating rival St. Francis Red Flash (5-23, 4-13), 71-60.
“At times it wasn’t real clean,” said associate head coach Charlie Buscaglia. “At the end of the game, I thought we really gutted it out, hit some big shots. I thought we had some good control down the stretch. The last eight minutes of the game I thought we did a really good job of taking care of the ball and finding the open shot.”
Leading the charge for the Colonials were freshman forwards Megan Smith and Mikalah Mulrain, scoring 18 and 14 points respectively. Both players also narrowly missed securing double-doubles, Smith grabbing nine rebounds and Mulrain coming down with eight.
In the first half, neither team could get its offensive game going. RMU and SFU combined to shoot just over 26 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes.
However, Saint Francis’ guard Alexa Hayward and Robert Morris’ Smith kept their respective teams afloat. Hayward went 6-of-15 from the floor with 17 points, while Smith shot 4-of-8 to end up with 11 points after the first half.
“I was just trying to not let the shots get to me,” said Smith. “I missed a couple early and just tried to make sure my emotions weren’t high. I tried to stay confident.”
As far as Hayward was concerned, the Colonials knew how to slow her down in the second half.
“By the second half, we realized she kept attacking the key, so we made sure we always had help defense,” said Mulrain, “and make sure we had the drop set to make her uncomfortable.”
Apparently, that strategy paid off for RMU. Hayward managed only seven points in the final 20 minutes, going 2-of-8 from the field. Her inability to carry the Red Flash allowed Robert Morris to break the halftime tie at 30, going on an 8-0 run to take a 42-36 lead with 14:48 left to play.
Again, the physicality combined with solid free-throw shooting from both squads would not permit either team to run away with it. At least, not until the very end.
After Hayward connected on two free throws to cut RMU’s lead to four with just under four minutes remaining, the Colonials pulled away for good. Led by five points from Anna Niki Stamolamprou, Robert Morris scored 12 unanswered points over a nearly three minute stretch.
From there, the lead fluctuated in the final minute until ultimately resulting in an 11-point Colonials win. The players spoke passionately about the importance of this home victory.
“We’re in a better place [since Bryant lost], but we wanted to win no matter what,” said guard Ashley Ravelli. “We want to make sure we protect our house, we always talk about that. So I think today was an important win for us.”
With only one more game remaining on Robert Morris’ schedule, a Monday night match-up at home versus Wagner, the Colonials can potentially take first place in the NEC. That final game is scheduled for 7 p.m.