Milligan: ‘I didn’t have my team ready.’ Siena hangs 82 on Rider in 38-point loss

By Dylan Manfre

Earlier in the season Rider women’s basketball Head Coach Lynn Milligan went on the record and said she took full responsibility after an ugly loss. She took a similar tone after the Broncs lost by 38 to Siena on Jan. 20.

“I did not have my team ready to play tonight,” Milligan said after the 82-44 loss at Alumni Gym.

Milligan was short-spoken in the postgame press conference. There was nothing about this game she liked.

Rider allowed the second-most points in a single game this year. The only other team to drop 80-plus on the Broncs was Penn State in the season-opener.

The game was littered with missed opportunities and missed shots. The Broncs did not score a single point off a turnover or get a second-chance bucket. Siena converted 14 Rider turnovers into 16 points and scored 21 second-chance points.

Rider trailed 72-36 at the final media timeout and senior guard Amanda Mobley, who has been out with a foot injury, was overheard telling her team to “look like you want to play basketball,” tonight. Sophomore guard Makayla Firebaugh confirmed what Mobley said was true and felt at that point they should have started turning things around.

“That’s what she needed to say in the moment,” a distraught Firebaugh said. “It didn’t look like nobody wanted to be here. It looked like we were just here, not ready to play, not energetic, not wanting to play basketball … I don’t know who we were tonight.”

The loss was an “indescribable pain,” to Firebaugh. She said she never had a loss that made her feel this way.

Siena has evolved in the one-month span since these two programs last met. The Saints entered Jan. 20 winners of three-straight games including a six-point victory over Manhattan College. It started Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play 0-2. Now Siena has won four games straight.

Junior guard Jessika Schiffer noticed a drastic change in Siena’s confidence and energy, something Rider lacked heavily on its home floor.

Schiffer and Firebaugh are sharpshooters on the team. They ended the game a combined 6-for-23 from the field and could not generate any offense, but that is one of Siena’s strengths. It sits atop the MAAC in the opponent’s points per game averaging 56.4 — it held Rider to 12 fewer points in this game.

There was no way Schiffer or Firebaugh were shooting themselves out of this slump.

“Everyone tried but I think it got to the point where it was too much,” Schiffer said. “We should have gotten together and not [play] like individuals trying to shoot us out of whatever we were in.”

Firebaugh agreed. Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing on the court. It was not an accurate representation of who they are, but that was the product at Alumni Gym.

Rider’s problematic defense allowed 17 points in the first four minutes and 18 seconds of the third quarter. There was virtually zero paint presence as players such as Imani Harris and Selena Philoxy drove to the bucket for Siena and helped balloon the lead. The Broncs had to figure out what to do next.

For the fourth quarter, Milligan put in a new frontcourt hoping to help the defensive effort. She inserted sophomore center Sofie Bruintjes with freshman forward Emily Strunk and junior forward Anna Ekertstet. Milligan did it because she wanted to “change it up a bit … see if we can get some stops.”

Rider has a road match with Monmouth on Jan. 27. It will be a pivotal one week for the Broncs that Milligan hopes is “focused.” If Rider steals a win on the road maybe it can change the trajectory of the season.

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