3:00 PM ET, March 10, 2007
Nesbit scores 28 points, leads Colonials to Northeast tourney title
CORAOPOLIS, Pa. -- Robert Morris earned home-court advantage for its Northeast Conference championship game and found a way to earn its first NCAA Tournament bid Saturday with a 68-66 victory over Sacred Heart.Now, the Colonials will await word Monday on whether they'll remain home for their first-round game March 18 in nearby Pittsburgh, site of one of the subregionals."No one's told me anything and I didn't ask," Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia said.Robert Morris won its second Northeast Conference title but its first since 1991, when the conference did not receive an automatic bid. Robert Morris' only other Division I conference championship came in 1988 as a member of the defunct ECAC Metro Conference."It feels great. It's really special," said Buscaglia, whose only other NCAA tournament appearance came as coach of Manhattan in 2003.Chinata Nesbit scored 28 points and Surgeiry Monsac added 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead Robert Morris (24-7), the Northeast Conference's second-seeded team. The Colonials finished the regular season in a three-way tie with top-seeded Long Island and third-seeded Sacred Heart (22-10), the defending conference champion.Robert Morris squandered a 15-point lead in the first half and was forced to battle back from a six-point second-half deficit against Sacred Heart.Amanda Pape, the Northeast Conference's leading scorer who was averaging 24.5 points in the first two games of the tournament, led Sacred Heart with 20. Jasmine Walker added 18 points and 12 rebounds."We played hard and fought back, but in the end, Robert Morris made more plays than us," Sacred Heart coach Ed Swanson said. "That's what happens in a championship game."Robert Morris held a 38-25 halftime lead before Sacred Heart stormed back in the second half, opening with a 3-pointer by Lisa Moray and a basket off a steal on the inbounds pass by Pape.The Pioneers continued to chip away and took their first lead on a layup by Pape with 8:19 to go.Robert Morris regained a 63-62 lead on a layup by Nesbit with 2:43 remaining, part of a 9-0 run that propelled the Colonials to a 67-62 advantage.Sacred Heart, which won at Robert Morris during the regular season, closed within 67-66 with 22 seconds left on a jumper by Walker but could not regain control.The Pioneers wasted a chance to tie the score at 68-all with 4.6 seconds remaining when Swanson called a timeout just before Kaitlin Sowinski scored on a layup."I made a bone-head move by calling a timeout," Swanson said. "That is going to be tough to live with."After struggling in his first year at Robert Morris, Buscaglia has led the Colonials to three consecutive 20-win seasons since taking over a program in 2003 that won just one game the previous year.Robert Morris was 20-10 in 2005 and 20-9 in 2006.Buscaglia also has coached teams to at least 20 victories in six other seasons -- five at Buffalo and one at Manhattan -- during a 17-year Division I career."It was a big challenge to take over this program," he said. "They hadn't won here in 14 years."
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