By Carlos Toro
In a season filled with lows, the women’s basketball team is feeling hopeful about the rest of the season after splitting its final two home games.
The Broncs (7-20, 4-14 MAAC), winners of three of their past five games, defeated Saint Peter’s on Feb. 19, but lost to Quinnipiac, winners of 14 straight, by a score of 65-47 on Feb. 22.
While the game against Quinnipiac could have been classified as a blowout, Head Coach Lynn Milligan saw the result differently.
“I know I’m crazy for thinking we played a solid game because we lost by almost 20 points, but we did,” Milligan said. “We had a solid game because of what we wanted to do in the game and how we wanted to do things in order to beat Quinnipiac.”
The opening minutes of the contest were physical, with both teams diving for loose balls and battling it out inside the paint, but the Bobcats soon got into a rhythm, going on a 7-0 scoring run in just 68 seconds.
Quinnipiac (19-7, 14-3 MAAC) continued to make shots, while Rider could not hit anything, shooting just 4 for 18 from the field in the first 10 minutes of the game.
But the Broncs did not quit when the second quarter began. With its tough defense causing turnover after turnover, Rider went on a short 5-0 run to cut Quinnipiac’s lead to six. While the offense could not produce more points, the Broncs’ defense held the Bobcats’ offense in check, surrendering just two points — both coming from free throws — in the first four minutes of the quarter.
Rider went on an 8-2 run in the middle of the third quarter, but that was the best the offense could muster in the second half. Quinnipiac slowly increased its lead, moving ahead as many as 20 points en route to the Bobcats’ win.
Rider made only 27.8 percent of its shots for the game. Rider junior guard Robin Perkins finished with just 12 points. Freshman guard Lexi Posset, the only Bronc to make a shot from the three-point line, finished with 11 points.
“There was a handful of shots I didn’t like,” Milligan said. “For the most part, I was OK with the shots we were taking. It’s February, and you have to step up and make shots, and we didn’t do that.”
The win against Saint Peter’s (4-23, 2-16 MAAC) also began with a slow offensive start from Rider.
Perkins and the team struggled to make baskets in the first quarter, scoring just nine points while Perkins went 0 for 4 from the field.
The Broncs’ offense picked up afterwards. Perkins gave Rider the 11-9 lead when she got a steal and made the ensuing layup with 9:13 left in the second quarter.
This jumpstarted an 11-2 scoring run for the Broncs. Perkins got her first six points of the game during that run. She finished the game making eight of her last 13 shots.
The game against the Peacocks extended Perkins’ excellent play as of late. She was awarded MAAC Player of the Week honors for all games from Feb. 8-14, averaging 19.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Milligan noted Perkins’ persistence and strong game despite the sluggish start.
“Robin started a little slow, but she finished really strong,” Milligan said. “We put her in some good spots. She took some tough shots and knocked them down. ”
Perkins believes it is up to her to help spread the floor for her teammates so that they can get open.
“When I start to get going and making shots, it helps my teammates start making shots,” Perkins said. “Opponents play me harder so it opens the floor for my teammates.”
While Perkins’ play has been one of the few bright spots of the season, she believes that her teammates have been a major part of her play.
“I feel like I have a hand in the offense, but my teammates helped me make that happen,” Perkins said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to put the ball in the basket.”
While Rider may be done playing games at home, they still have two games remaining before the MAAC Tournament in March. They will travel to Monmouth (11-16, 9-9 MAAC) on Feb. 25 and end the regular season at Manhattan (13-13, 10-7 MAAC) on Feb. 28.
Milligan stresses the importance of finishing the regular season on a strong note, saying that teams want to be carrying momentum entering the postseason.
“It’s critical that we play well at this stage in the season,” Milligan said. “Your goal all year is to make sure your team is peaking at this point in the season. Playing well in February is really big for us.”