The Robert Morris University women’s basketball team clinched its third Northeast Conference regular season championship in the last four seasons with a 71-43 win over Sacred Heart University Thursday evening at the Charles L. Sewall Center. The Colonials, now 19-7 overall and 14-1 in league play, are assured of at least a share of the title and are guaranteed the top-seed in the NEC Tournament for the first time in team history.
Robert Morris shared the NEC regular season title with Quinnipiac in 2008 and was part of a three-way tie with Long Island and Sacred Heart in 2007. The Colonials earned the two-seed in both of those cases.
The Colonials used suffocating defense, holding Sacred Heart (18-8, 11-4 NEC) to 22.1 percent shooting and forcing 23 turnovers while holding the Pioneers to a season-low 43 points. Robert Morris turned those 23 turnovers into 23 points.
Senior guard Monica Jones (Pittsburgh / Woodland Hills (Howard College)) recorded her second career double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to go along with three steals and two assists. Jones finished 6-of-12 from the field and had two of the team’s three three-pointers.
Sophomore Mary Durojaye (London, England / English National U-20) finished with 13 points and tacked on 10 boards to pick up her fourth double-double of the year. Senior guard Angela Pace (Westchester, N.Y. / Woodlands (Monroe College)) topped all scorers with 16 points, adding seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. Junior Kristine Silaraja (Ventspils, Latvia / Ventspils (Barton County)) rounded out a quartet of RMU scorers in double-digits, finishing with 11 points.
Robert Morris jumped out to a 13-4 lead five minutes in to the game and pushed the margin to 15 points with 9:22 left in the opening half. A trey by Alisa Apo ended the RMU run and was the beginning of a 15-6 run for Sacred Heart to end the half. The Pioneers cut the lead to 28-22 at the break, giving themselves a chance.
That chance ended 2:00 minutes into the second stanza. The Colonials got four layups from Silaraja, Pace, Vega Gimeno-Martinez (Valencia, Spain / Spanish National U-20) and Jones along with a Pace free throw to go up, 37-22. The Pioneers would cut the lead to 10 points with 14:54 to play, but a 20-7 run over the next six minutes buried any comeback opportunity. RMU would push the lead to as many as 30 points en route to the 71-43 win.
Apo finished with 10 points for Sacred Heart with Callan Taylor adding a team-best 11 points.
RMU shot 44.4 percent (28-63) from the floor, outscoring the Pioneers 46-16 in the paint and 16-4 on fast break points. The Colonials also held a 48-46 rebounding advantage.
Robert Morris can clinch the outright regular season championship with a win on Saturday, February 20, when they host the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Tip-off is slated for 4 p.m.