By Jordan Hall
Rider rebounded after a 71-55 loss to Manhattan on Friday by defeating Niagara 56-40, improving its record to 9-17 overall and 6-9 in the MAAC. The first meeting between the Broncs and the Jaspers resulted in a 10-point road victory for Rider, but the second matchup was a different story Manhattan returned the favor by dismantling the Broncs on both ends of the floor, and disappointing a crowded Sovereign Bank Arena.
“At Manhattan, we were able to generate some easy baskets through our defense, but that did not happen on Friday night,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “We had to work for every point.”
The Jaspers entered the contest 7-17 overall, 4-9 in the conference and looking to tie the Broncs for seventh place in the MAAC with a victory.
The first half consisted of two spurts, one by each team. Manhattan struck early, riding a 16-6 run that started less than three minutes into the game and was punctuated with 10:23 left in the frame, leaving the Jaspers with a 20-9 lead. Rider responded, igniting a 15-4 push that tied the contest and eventually sent the Broncs into the break only trailing by five, 31-26.
The momentum carried over as the Broncs erased any thoughts of having another slow start. Rider jumped out of the gate, beginning the second half on a 9-0 run, giving themselves a 35-31 lead. This was the Broncs’ first advantage since they led 2-0.
Manhattan crept back into the game and regained the lead, 40-39, and this was as close as Rider would get the rest of the game. The Jaspers created a 17-4 run, opening up a 14-point advantage, 57-43, with only 6:40 left in regulation.
Rider showed some life and cut the deficit down to four, but Manhattan delivered the final knock-out punch, finishing the game off on a 14-2 run and sealing the victory.
“We never really found our flow at either end of the floor,” Milligan said.
Manhattan came into the matchup second in the league in 3-pointers made, and it cashed in 9-18 (.50 percent) for the win.
“Manhattan is a very good shooting team overall,” Milligan said.
The Broncs, on the other hand, had their second-worst shooting performance of the season, going 2-18 (.11 percent) from three-point range and 17-62 (.27 percent) overall from the field.
“It was one of our worst shooting nights of the year,” Milligan said. “When we executed, we had open looks and just could not knock them down.”
Senior forward Shaunice Parker dropped 12 points and snatched 11 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season, while leading scorer junior Tammy Meyers chipped in with 11 points and nine boards. The Broncs were competing without sophomore Cintella Spotwood, their fourth-leading scorer, who was out with an injury.
Rider was determined to avenge Friday night’s loss and snap its three-game losing skid against a one-win Niagara squad on Sunday at Alumni Gym. The Broncs did just that, thanks to a tremendous first half and their best defensive performance all season.
Rider put on a scoring clinic in the first frame with a 40-point outburst while holding the Purple Eagles to only 17 points. The Broncs raced to a 24-8 lead and never looked back, cruising the entire ball game to the victory.
“A good start was crucial for our success,” Milligan said. “We started strong on offense, but more importantly, we played excellent defense throughout the game.”
Rider held Niagara to the lowest point total (40) by an opponent this season, complementing the hard work and fundamentally sound defensive effort.
“We had a great bounce-back game,” Milligan said. “We focused mainly on our defense and rebounding in this game because that got away from us over the last few games.”
The Broncs dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Purple Eagles 46-28. Junior point guard Amanda Sepulveda scored a team-high of 12 points. Meyers put in 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for her third double-double of the season.
Rider looks to capture its second win in a row on Saturday for the seniors’ final home game of their careers. They face Saint Peter’s at 1 p.m.