TOLEDO, Ohio -- Artemis Spanou had witnessed her coach's passion before, though never like this.
Robert Morris' Sal Buscaglia showed respect to the team that handed the Colonials (21-12) a 93-42 defeat Saturday, calling top-seeded Notre Dame "elite" after an opening-round rout in the NCAA tournament.
He then directed praise on his team, spending his postgame news conference in near tears as he bid farewell to Spanou and two of her senior teammates.
"Coach is half-Italian, so he's emotional," Spanou said before she was interrupted.
"I'm full-Italian," Buscaglia quipped.
Gone are the late nights of Buscaglia sitting in his office listening to a ball bouncing and knowing his star player is putting in extra work. The thought of Spanou's departure isn't sitting well with her coach, who called the 2,000-point scorer from Greece "irreplaceable."
With 51 seconds remaining, Buscaglia subbed Spanou out of the game, letting her receive a warm reception from a couple hundred Colonials fans who made the trip to Savage Arena. Robert Morris faithful cheered until the very end, even breaking out into "Defense" chants with their team trailing by 50.
The focus of double and sometimes triple-teams, Spanou had trouble operating against the second-ranked Fighting Irish. Attempting just four shots, she finished with seven points and eight turnovers. Spanou, who had 28 double-doubles this season, added six rebounds.
"I told my team we can't go out there scared," said Spanou, a two-time Northeast Conference player of the year. "Individually, I didn't go out there scared and I played my game the way I know how to play. Getting double-teamed by a team such as Notre Dame shows a lot of respect from them."
The majority of a crowd in excess of 4,000 showed up to watch the Irish's marquee backcourt tandem. They saw just as much of the team's bench.
Ten Notre Dame players logged 12 or more minutes, a statistic that speaks to the surplus of talent housed by a team many expect to be in the national final for a third time in four seasons.
The Irish (33-0), on a championship collision course with fellow unbeaten Connecticut, will keep their act in town for two more nights and face Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. Monday
Robert Morris was led by Anna Niki Stamolamprou's 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Buscaglia expects Spanou to play professionally and for seniors Britta Emberg and Kelly Hartwell to excel in their working careers.
"Coaching is a special thing," he said. "It isn't about points, it's about building a relationship with young ladies and helping them grow, mature and succeed. When you know that three of them won't be there anymore, you get a little sad."
Ryan Autullo is a reporter for the Block News Alliance. The Block News Alliance consists of the Post-Gazette, The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, and television station WDRB in Louisville, Ky.