By Stephen Neukam
Although senior guard Lexi Posset and junior guard Stella Johnson combined for 32 points, it was not enough, as the women’s basketball team dropped its season opener to Princeton University by a score of 89-65 on Nov. 6.
The Broncs fell victim to the hot shooting of the 2017 Ivy League Champions. Princeton shot 7-13 from three in the first half. Senior guard Gabrielle Rush shot 5-6 from beyond the arc in the half, scoring 23 of her 25 points in the first 20 minutes.
Rider did not do itself any favors. It turned the ball over nine times in the first half, which resulted in 17 points for the Tigers.
Princeton capped off the first two periods with a shot from half-court and led the game 52-27 at the half.
“They threw that first punch and really got after us,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “It took us a little time to get our feet under us.”
The tempo of the game was controlled by the fast-paced Tigers, who took every chance to push the ball down the floor.
The Broncs struggled to shoot the ball. They posted a field goal percentage of 42.1 and a three-point percentage of 36.4. Last season, Rider shot just 38.5 percent and 33 percent from those ranges. Princeton shot 55.4 percent from the field.
“I just don’t think we were prepared for the pace they played at,” said Johnson. “We weren’t communicating at all.”
Princeton was the preseason favorite to defend its Ivy League title. The team also made an appearance in last year’s NCCA Tournament, losing to Maryland in the first round.
Mistakes on offense and defense cost Rider from the start of the game.
“We have to fix our [problems] in practice tomorrow,” said Johnson.
Johnson finished with 21 points and six assists and Posset posted 11 points. Junior guard Lexi Stover shot 2-4 from three and scored six points.
The Bronc defense struggled to keep Princeton from dominating the game from the inside and outside. The Tigers scored 52 points in the paint. Princeton also led on the board, out-rebounding Rider 37 to 23.
“I thought we had our hands on a lot of rebounds and couldn’t finish the play,” said Milligan. “I think that those are things that you will see corrected pretty quickly.”
Rider entered the season with a sense of optimism.
Ranked fourth in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Rider also had junior guard Stella Johnson and senior guard Lexi Posset be named to preseason All-MAAC First and Second Team respectively.
After graduating last year’s second-leading scorer, Kamila Hoskova, the Broncs will certainly look to Johnson, Posset and Stover to shoulder a larger load. These players serve as captains for the team.
The team will also rely on junior guard Amari Johnson, who had to sit out last season due to collegiate transfer rules after leaving the University of Rhode Island for Rider. Johnson, standing at 5-foot-10, will be expected to add length to the defense and a versatile offensive skill set.
The nonconference slate for the team will be a good tune-up for the conference schedule.
The highlights of nonconference play include home games against Navy on Dec. 2 and Georgetown on Dec. 21.
Rider will begin and end its conference play against Fairfield with a game at home on Jan. 6 and an away game on Mar. 2.
The battle for the top of the conference will be tough to win with Quinnipiac named the preseason favorites to claim the MAAC title for the fifth straight season.
Rider will travel to Vermont to play the Catamounts on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.