By Dylan Manfre
Head Coach Lynn Milligan won’t allow her team to get too confident. Not even after the women’s basketball team earned its 10th win in a row over Canisius 70-57 on Jan. 23. In fact, she did not know it had been 10 wins.
“It is what it is,” Milligan said. “We have a few chances to be great and it’s one down, one to go.”
The two teams were tied at 20 after one quarter after Rider committed careless turnovers which Milligan was not too concerned about.
“I think our turnovers were aggressive,” Milligan said. “A lot of them I thought we were trying to get the look we’d get and maybe [we were] too late or too early with the look but I’m not concerned. They’re coming from the right place as far as sharing the ball and setting up teammates and trying to give up a good shot to get a great shot.”
Capitalizing off turnovers is what allowed Canisius to keep the game close for the first two periods — the Golden Griffins converted 12 first-half turnovers into 14 points.
Senior guard Stella Johnson, however, did view the turnovers as worrisome because it is something the team stresses in practice on a daily basis.
“Personally I know I had a lot of turnovers tonight,” Johnson said. “I think we were just lazy with our passing a little bit, we were confused with the zone [defense] but in the second half we got way better with it.”
Despite nine turnovers, Johnson’s error was overshadowed by a 33-point performance, complemented by a season-high seven steals. It was her fifth 30-point game of the season.
Rider has consistently capitalized on adjustments made at halftime so far this campaign. Focusing on perimeter defense seemed to work for the Broncs as Canisius could not convert on the two attempts it took from beyond the arc in the third quarter.
After trading buckets a majority of the way, the two teams went into halftime with Rider up one point, 37-36. Despite a slim lead, Milligan thought the defensive performance was not up to par.
“Our defensive execution was not meeting our expectations,” Milligan said. “We talked a lot about defense at halftime and made a couple of adjustments with some better switches and things like that. Giving up 30 points in the first half is not who I think we are but I thought we came out strong in the second half and did a better job there.”
The Broncs held Canisius to 21 points in the second half. They were able to dismantle their 2-3 zone defense and drive the ball inside the paint.
“I think ball screens helped us a lot,” Johnson said. “It was hard for the other guard to help as I was getting screened. Penetrating the gaps is the main thing because everyone is going to collapse and you can kick it out for a 3-pointer.”
Johnson’s 3-point shooting kept the Broncs alive and gave them an eight-point lead early in the final quarter. She finished with four in the contest. In the four-game stretch prior to the Marist contest on Jan. 16, Johnson was 3-of-20 from behind the arc.
Stella Johnson doing a much better job hitting from behind the arc and if she stays consistent from there it’ll definitely help Rider’s chances.— Dylan Manfre (@Dylan_Manfre11) January 24, 2020
Prior to the game, Johnson spent time in the arena getting shots up with Assistant Coach Steve Harney, which helps her develop more confidence in her shot — confidence she said did not have much of before from long-range.
We’re on the bus and she’s already geared up. When we get inside the gym, she puts her coat down and her court shoes on; I grab two balls from the rack.— Steven Harney (@coachharney) January 23, 2020
She walks to the other end, and I bounce her one: “Here you go, Stell.” She starts her routine—
50 makes before Team Shoot.
“Coach Steve [Harney] reminded me that I still had my shot so I decided that, in conference, I had to be more confident in my shot. I don’t think I was shooting it with much confidence,” Johnson said. “I try to [get shots up] before every game we play away just to get a feel of the court and hoop so it’s just an every game routine for me.”
The Broncs continue their upstate New York trip as they face Niagara for the first time since the MAAC opener back on Jan. 2. Niagara has gone 4-2 since the teams last met. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. on ESPN+.
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