By Stephen Neukam
A pair of road losses for the women’s basketball team dropped its record to 0-3 for the season, losing at Vermont, 54-49, on Nov. 9 and Holy Cross, 71-61, on Nov. 11.
Junior guard Stella Johnson led Rider throughout both of the games.
The contest against Vermont was tight for the duration of the match, with the Rider lead at 47-40 with 3:29 left in the game. Vermont closed the game on a 14-2 run that saw the Broncs miss their final six shots of the match.
In the defeat, Stella Johnson finished with 23 points on 10-for-24 shooting from the field. Senior guard Lexi Posset struggled to score, shooting 2-for-13 on the night and finishing with eight points.
“We didn’t make a shot when we needed and we couldn’t get a stop when we needed down the stretch,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “We need to be able to put together a full 40 minutes.”
During the game at Holy Cross, Rider dug itself an early hole. The Broncs shot just 30 percent from the field and 15 percent from the three-point line in the first half. The struggle for efficiency continued for Rider, which holds a field goal percentage of just under 36 percent.
Rider trailed 24-18 at the half.
The Broncs’ offense showed more life in the second half, making three shots from beyond the three-point arc to cut the deficit to five heading into quarter four.
Rider’s surge proved to be too little too late as Holy Cross sealed the victory by shooting an impressive 10-12 from the free-throw line to stave off Rider.
The Crusaders also defeated Rider in Lawrenceville last season on Nov. 18. Holy Cross leads the all time series against Rider 4-0.
Stella Johnson finished the game with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. Junior forward Lea Favre added eight points on an efficient 4-for-7 from the field. Junior guard Amari Johnson scored seven points while contributing seven rebounds and two steals.
It was the fifth straight game that Stella Johnson scored 20 points or more, dating back to the Broncs appearance in the MAAC tournament last season.
“Every game we have improved offensively and defensively,” said Stella Johnson. “I believe by the time we start conference play, we will have our groove.”
All of Rider’s games have been the season opener for its opponents.
The Broncs are no strangers to early-season struggles. Last year, Rider posted a 0-6 record through its first six nonconference games. The team posted a regular season record of 13-10 following those first six losses.
“We’ll be just fine,” said Milligan. “[It is] not the start we wanted but we are progressing in the right direction.”
Stella Johnson had been the standout for the Broncs through the first three games of the season. She had scored over 20 points in each of Rider’s three games this campaign and was named MAAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week on Nov. 12. It was the third time she had won a weekly MAAC award in her career.
Rider will return home on Nov. 17 to face Mount St. Mary’s at 2 p.m. The Broncs will be looking to avenge a loss to the Mountaineers last year.