Robert Morris' Artemis Spanou applauds her teammates as they go up against Central Connecticut.
By Craig Meyer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In the back corner of Sal Buscaglia's office, next to a leather couch, is the trophy awarded to the Northeast Conference regular-season champions.
It's an honor his Robert Morris women's basketball team claimed Monday with a victory against Mount St. Mary's, its first title since 2010.
Three days later, he was named the conference's coach of the year and star center Artemis Spanou was honored as NEC player of the year.
For all the team's recent accomplishments, the trophy's placement was telling.
"We put it on the side and we took it off the desk," Buscaglia said.
"Now we have to focus on the matter at hand."
■ Game: Robert Morris (18-11) vs. LIU-Brooklyn (9-20) in NEC quarterfinal, Sewall Center.
■ When: 2 p.m.
The matter is the NEC tournament, a paramount event for a mid-major school such as Robert Morris.
If the Colonials win it, they will reach their season-long goal of an NCAA tournament berth. As the top seed and with the luxury of home-court advantage throughout the tournament, expectations have become greater.
Based on what it did in the regular season, including a 14-4 record in NEC games, Robert Morris might have the team built to handle that pressure.
Much of what the Colonials have accomplished centers around Spanou. The 6-foot-2 senior averaged a team-high 19.2 points per game this season and pulled in 14.7 rebounds per game, the second-best mark in Division I.
But there's also a flavor of youth to the team, as three of the four leading scorers are freshmen or sophomores.
"Artie is a tremendous player, there's no doubt about that, but we really do feel that we have very solid, young as they are, players around her," Buscaglia said. "As good as Artie's made them, I think they've helped Artie as well."
The tournament begins this afternoon with a game against LIU-Brooklyn.
Though Robert Morris is the prohibitive favorite, the Colonials knows such distinctions only matter so much.
"It's a totally different animal," Buscaglia said.
"All teams step it up and have focus, which they may not have had all the time in every game throughout the year. I don't look for any one team in this conference to be like, that's the team to beat, even ourselves."
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