PITTSBURGH — One local team has made it to the NCAA Tournament as the Robert Morris Women’s Basketball team will be able to put on its dancing shoes for the third time in four years and sixth berth overall.
“The most proud I am about this young team is when the moments got tough, we responded,” Robert Morris coach Charlie Buscaglia said after the NEC Championship game.
Monday night, well Monday afternoon thanks to an ESPN leak, Robert Morris found out it will again be a 16 seed, this time traveling to Kentucky to take on Louisville in a contest which will tip off Friday at noon.
This will be the first time these two teams have met.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament,” said Buscaglia. “We’re ready to get to work and get the game plan together to prepare us for Friday. “Even though our team is extremely young this year, we’ve grown up very fast. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and what we’ll do going forward.”
Robert Morris earned its spot in the NCAA Tournament by winning the NEC Championship over Saint Francis by a 65-54 final score Sunday afternoon and had a 16-2 regular-season conference record.
The Colonials are led by junior center Nneka Ezeigbo’s 12.6 points per game.
A 16 seed has defeated the top seed once in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, which came in 1998 when Harvard bested Stanford by a 71-67 score.
If Robert Morris were to defeat Louisville, it would face either eighth-seeded Michigan or ninth-seeded Kansas State. Robert Morris has never faced either potential opponent.
Louisville lost 73-63 in a Final Four contest to Mississippi State last season.
DUQUESNE’S SEASON COMES TO AN END
For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Duquesne women’s basketball team will not be playing in the postseason.
Since that time, Duquesne has played in the WNIT nine times and the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16.
“Obviously, we are disappointed,” Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. “I have no further comment.”
Duquesne finished third in the regular season Atlantic 10 standings.
VCU earned the conference’s automatic berth and Dayton which finished fourth in the regular season Atlantic 10 standings earned the second and final spot in the field. Another Atlantic 10 program, Davidson, made the WBI and will host Marshall in a first-round game.
“Duquesne was heavily considered for the field, up until the last minute,” WNIT Director Renee Carlson said. “They were very close but at the end they did not have enough to get in. It’s never one thing when it comes down to bubble teams, it’s the big picture, their whole package. They did have some losses which didn’t help them.”
Carlson further stated that the committee felt that Dayton had a stronger case to be in the field and teams finishing slightly below in the standings leapfrogging another does happen in conferences where they do not play double round-robin style.
Duquesne of course does not currently have a home gym as the court has been moved to the Power Center and the facility is beginning a renovation process with the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse as the final product. Carlson stated that being unable to host is not a factor in whether one team makes the field over another.
This outcome mean’s Duquesne’s senior quintet of Eniko Kuttor, Kadri-Ann Lass, Chassidy Omogrosso, Conor Richardson and Julijana Vojinovic have played their last game, which was a 76-34 Atlantic 10 Championship semifinal loss to Fordham.
“This is not a way any of us want to go out and it would also be the first time in 11-12 years that our program would not have made the postseason and I don’t want that to happen,” Lass said after the Fordham loss. “We struggled a lot throughout the season but it seemed like we finally got it together and didn’t give up on the season. We showed the last seven games we were able to find our game.”
PITT LOSES TWO TO TRANSFER
Pittsburgh Sports Now has learned that forward Jaala Henry and guard Tehya Lyons have entered the NCAA transfer portal and intend to transfer from Pitt.
Henry played two seasons for Pitt and competed in 51 total games, and starting the Nov. 13 game this season against Youngstown State. She averaged 1.0 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. While being recruited, Henry was named the 39th best prospect by the All Star Girls Report, while ESPN rated her 16th for her position and gave her a scout grade of 90.
Lyons did not see the court for Pitt this season, her first with the Panthers. She was a three-star recruit according to ESPN scouting profiles and ranked 28th at the guard position.
Both players were recruited by former Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. Lance White is entering his second season at the helm of the program in 2019-20.
MOUNTAINEERS SEASON CONTINUES
West Virginia will make its 13th consecutive postseason appearance when it hosts Ryder Thursday at 7 p.m. in first-round WNIT play.
It is the first time these teams have ever played each other and this is the second consecutive year that West Virginia is playing in the WNIT.
Last season, West Virginia fell in the WNIT semifinals 64-61 to Virginia Tech but twice before have advanced to the tournament finals, losing in 2005 and 2015.
West Virginia is 15-6 overall in WNIT and 14-4 under head coach Mike Carey.
The Mountaineers fell in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals by a 72-59 mark to Kansas State and were outscored 21-8 in the first quarter.
“They out-hustled us,” Carey said. “(The) points off turnovers, 18-3; second-chance points, 18-7; fast break points, 8-0. That says all you need to know on that. We cut it to one or two and then came down and turned it over three times, took some bad shots and didn’t defend on the other end. They outworked us.”
West Virginia is led by redshirt junior guard Tynice Martin’s 17.7 points per game and senior guard forward Naomi Davenport who averages 15.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
If West Virginia wins on Thursday, it would take on either Villanova or Old Dominion in the second round.