By Dylan Manfre
It was not the start Rider women’s basketball desired by any means, after losses to Penn State on Nov. 11 and La Salle on Nov. 13. The games featured some breakdown of Rider’s offense and defense overall but against La Salle, the Broncs even erased an 18-point comeback, still falling excruciatingly short of a victory.
A disappointing 83 points
The women’s basketball team sprinkles games in its nonconference schedule against some Power 5 opponents and had Penn State on the docket to open up the 2021-2022 campaign.
When these programs last met, Rider looked extraordinarily different. Senior guard Amanda Mobley was a sophomore and COVID-19 was not around yet in the United States.
Facing Penn State with an almost completely different roster, the Broncs lost 83-69. Head Coach Lynn Milligan was the most unhappy at the 83 points they allowed.
“We’re disappointed we gave up 83 [points.] That’s really the bottom line,” Milligan said. “I think we can do better than that.”
The Broncs started this game down 10 at the end of the first quarter, 24-14, but shot particularly well, a touch over 46%.
By halftime, only five Rider players had scored and none over double-digits. Meanwhile, Penn State had its main options thriving. Center Ali Brigham had 13 points in 14 minutes of action. She was 6-for-7 from the field at that point.
The Broncs put their foot on the gas out of halftime and sliced Penn State’s lead to four points. Sophomore forward Raphaela Toussaint and senior guard Lenaejha Evans got off to strong starts in the third quarter.
With just over two minutes left in the third quarter, Evans had 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 11 minutes of play.
“She was terrific,” Milligan said. “We started her to start the second half. She was the main reason we cut the lead to five.”
She helped bring Rider to within five as time expired. Toussaint finished with a career-high 21 points.
Penn State regained its offensive hold over Rider in the fourth quarter and extended its lead to 17 points with two minutes remaining.
The La Salle Explorers have not beaten Rider in 11 years, and in the first half, the Explorers demonstrated why that streak could come to an end.
Except the third quarter happened, where La Salle blew an 18-point lead. It took a while for the Broncs to claw back and make this a competitive game even pushing it to overtime. La Salle ripped the momentum back in its control in the extra period to win the game, 67-58.
Rider continued its strong play into the fourth quarter and perfect free-throw shooting helped tie the game and send it into overtime at 50.
La Salle started the period 3-of-3 from long range, pushing it to a 13-2 run to begin the period. Like the start of the game, it was a rough beginning to the overtime period for Rider only scoring eight points.
“We’ve got to become a better basketball team between now and Saturday,” Milligan said. “It has to be on both ends, it has to be a lot of different things but we’ve got some time here to be a better team by Saturday and that’s the goal.”
Despite compelling comebacks, the Broncs’ struggles cannot go unnoticed. Rider looked slow on offense to begin the game against the Explorers, missing four straight shots and allowing two passing turnovers. La Salle began the game on a 10-0 run.
The Explorers hit buzzer-beaters at the end of the first and second quarters. Rider got stung twice, and it hurt quite a bit, as it was the culmination of two pretty rough offensive quarters for the Broncs.
“That’s one of the things we talked about is just being able to finish these possessions.,” Milligan said. “You play 25 seconds of great defense and then they nail a dagger. That’s definitely deflating.”
Evans helped erase that ugly lead. Along with junior guard Maya Hayacienth who hit the first and second 3-pointers of the game for the Broncs, respectively. It took a while for Rider to get going from behind the arc but those two shots helped the comeback effort.
“The energy of the team is really what brung us back and being hyped,” said Evans who led Rider with 20 points. “We just kept fighting.”
Rider will hope to get its first win of the season on Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. as it takes on Saint Francis Brooklyn.