WNIT preview: RMU vs Drexel
Despite falling to the Saint Francis Red Flash this past weekend in the NEC Championship game, the Robert Morris Colonials are not done yet.
The winningest team in the history of the program will attempt to continue to add to the win column in the first round of the Women’s NIT tournament against the Drexel Dragons.
While this is an easier opponent than one RMU may have faced in the NCAA tournament, there is nothing easy about this Drexel Dragons team.
The Dragons almost match the exact same blueprint as Charlie Buscaglia’s Robert Morris team. Both are built on their defense. Right now the national ranks have RMU as the 9th-best defense next to Drexel who displays the 14th-best defense in a much tougher conference.
Drexel puts up an average of 63.7 points per game just ahead of RMU who records 62.2 points per game.
This is a game that will be won on the defensive side of the ball. But who’s defense is truly better?
Players to watch:
Kelsi Lidge: Lidge is not only the team’s leading scorer but also its leader in rebounds, blocks and steals. The senior forward from Colorado has made at least one start in every season and looks to continue to make her presence felt against the Colonials. Not to mention Lidge is also second on the team in assists, look for Lidge to be a key part of the offense. If RMU slows down Lidge, they can keep the game close.
Though it is important to note, despite being their leading rebounder, Lidge is just 5′ 8″.
Hannah Nihill: Nihill is the perfect player for a team built on defense. Ignore her small offensive numbers, she is an absolute presence on the defensive side of the ball. Her 62 rebounds on the season put her just behind Lidge in that category so do not be surprised if she adds to that number Friday.
Jocelynne Jones: Coming off a career-high 21-point performance in the NEC championship game, Jones’ ability to go toe-to-toe with Jessica Kovatch, one of the nation’s best point guards, for almost the entire game was a spectacular sight for all those in attendance at the DeGol Arena.
Jones is unstoppable on defense, with 80 steals on the team, her defensive numbers are the best between both RMU and Drexel. Her speed and anticipation of where the ball is going to be is a huge help in creating offense for RMU and taking it away from the other team. That potent combination can shift the game in favor of the Colonials at any point.
Megan Callahan: In the NEC championship to Saint Francis, Callahan was ice cold. Callahan shot a very poor 2-for-10 on the day including 1-for-7 from long range. It just looked as though the freshman phenom couldn’t buy a shot even if she wanted to. Her struggles from the floor especially hurt the Colonials late as they tried to mount a last second comeback similar to their 63-62 buzzer-beater win earlier in the season.
Often Callahan’s ability to hit shots has been a huge part of creating changes in momentum for the Colonials. If she can get back into form and hit enough timely shots, Callahan can give the Colonials a big enough boost for the win.
Keys to the game:
Robert Morris – Size Matters: Again it is important to note that Drexel’s leading rebounder is 5’8″. And while Drexel has some size on their team, in one of the few cases, Robert Morris has more size and should be able to dominate inside the paint. Players like Mikalah Mulrain and Nneka Ezeigbo need to make their living on the boards and help pick up the misses from RMU and prevent second-chance opportunities for the Dragons.
Drexel – Limit Turnovers: Facing another really strong defense, the Dragons need to realize that their best players also lead the team in turnovers. This means that these scoring opportunities may come at a cost that Drexel cannot afford. Players like Kelsi Lidge and Aubree Brown need to find a way to put the ball in the basket without giving it to the other team 5 or 6 times. RMU knows how to create opportunities off of other team’s mistakes and if you let them do it to often, there could be trouble in the City of Brotherly Love.