By Dylan Manfre
“How ‘bout that defense today.”
Head Coach Lynn Milligan walked down the bench high-fiving each assistant coach and player yelling about the defensive effort as time winded down. The Rider Pep Band chanted “I believe that we will win.”
The Broncs hosted Monmouth on Feb. 1 in front of women’s basketball alumna and put on a performance that would make them proud as Rider only needed to score 48 points to take down the Hawks and improve to 10-0 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play.
Rider held Monmouth to 25 points in the game, which is the Hawks’ lowest scoring total since becoming a Division I team.
1️⃣7️⃣-2️⃣ Overall— Steven Harney (@coachharney) February 2, 2020
1️⃣0️⃣-0️⃣ in Conference
9️⃣-0️⃣ at Home
1️⃣4️⃣ Game Win Streak
#️⃣1️⃣ Scorer in the Country
#️⃣🔟 Rebounder in the Country
#️⃣8️⃣ Mid-Major in the Country
… still more to come. 🐴🏀♥️#OnOurHorse pic.twitter.com/zr6FTLDQwN
“We know we can always rely on our defense,” Milligan said. “Defense, to me, is not about tons of talent. Defense is about us locking in on our game plan, locking on on our fundamentals. Defense can buy you time if your offense isn’t going early.”
Senior guard Amari Johnson’s defensive rebounding coupled well with her superior offense on the night. She registered her MAAC-leading 13th double-double early in the fourth quarter after she got a layup to fall.
Repeatedly, she has talked about how much of a defensive-minded player she is and her love for crashing the boards.
“The main thing for all of us is to stay together … we’re a beast when we are connecting as a whole [on defense.]” Johnson said. “[Rebounding] keeps me focused.”
Senior guard Stella Johnson tried to swipe the ball every opportunity she got. In the previous three games, she had four steals. She recorded three takeaways at the 7:54 mark of the second quarter.
She ended the game with four steals and while she is known for being a scoring machine she offered a little insight into the type of player she really is.
“I didn’t come into Rider as an offensive player — I came in as a defensive player,” Stella Johnson said. “Once I get my defense flowing my offense flows.”
She mentioned playing defense is better because “I like the hustle plays.”
Senior forward Tracey Goodman sat out of the game today for rest so Milligan played senior center Aubre Johnson more than she usually would. Although she played a majority of the game with one foul, Milligan said that Aubre Johnson knew the team needed her in the game today.
“[Monmouth] really tries to go inside with their post players and with Tracey [Goodman] out I think [Aubre Johnson] knew that she needed to make sure she was on the floor a little more,” Milligan said. “I thought her second-half defense is the type of defense we expect from Aubre [Johnson].”
Stella Johnson capped a strong third quarter with an up-and-under layup as time expired to help her team go up 40-19.
The game capped a homestand which saw the Broncs play three games in a five-day span. Milligan praised their efforts and said this week was a good example of the resiliency of the group.
“We played five games in 10 days and for us to defend the way we did particularly Thursday [against Manhattan] and today, I think says something about us,” Milligan said. “It says something about their mental toughness, how they take care of their bodies and that’s really what it’s about. These guys know exactly what it takes to be successful.”
MAAC play is halfway done for the Broncs who take on Saint Peter’s on Feb. 6 after four days of rest. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN3.
Follow Dylan Manfre on Twitter for the latest on the women’s basketball team.