By Carlos Toro
For only the second time in program history, the women’s basketball has won 20 games, moving a half game in front of Quinnipiac for first place in the MAAC.
Wins over Iona, Canisius and Marist, respectively, extended Rider’s winning streak to seven.
Rider Head Coach Lynn Milligan said the team’s offense made the difference against Canisius.
“We had some really good shooters,” Milligan said. “I think [freshman guard] Safie Tolusso played well. Stella [Johnson] stepped up, and Kamila [Hoskova] stepped up as well. I thought Julia [Duggan] did well and helped us extend that lead against Canisius by making some free throws. When you’re playing against a great three-point shooting team, you have to be able to make those free throws.”
Before the win against Canisius, Rider took care of business in its road game against Iona in a contest that saw the Broncs hold the Gaels to only 36 points.
While the first half didn’t see a whole lot of action in terms of offense, Rider had a 24-13 lead at halftime. Iona could not muster much more offense in the second half, as Rider cruised to a 52-36 win.
Against the Golden Griffins, Rider’s defense held Canisius to just two field goals and caused four turnovers in the first quarter.
After scoring just seven points in the first quarter, Canisius went on a short 9-2 scoring run to kick off the second quarter, giving the Golden Griffins their first lead of the game. Rider missed its first four field goals of the second quarter.
The Broncs sunk their first shot of the second quarter, a Tolusso three-pointer with less than a minute remaining, to pull within one heading into the half.
Coming off the break, Duggan retook the lead for the Broncs with a layup. Canisius then scored four straight points, but Broncs junior guard Hoskova hit a deep three-point shot to tie the game at 24-24. For the remainder of the third quarter, both teams traded leads. Hoskova and Tolusso each shot another three-pointer to help Rider keep up with Canisius, as the Broncs went into the final quarter behind 34-32.
Tolusso made an open three-pointer to give Rider a 37-36 lead early in the fourth, sending the crowd at Alumni Gym into an ear-shattering cheer. The Broncs then slowly extended that lead thanks to a couple of field goals from Johnson. After the lead reached double-digits, Rider was fouled on nearly every offensive possession, closing out the game on the free throw line with a 61-50 win.
Hoskova, who led the Broncs with 18 points, said one of the reasons this team has done so well this season is that the talent level is overwhelming.
“We just have so much energy and everyone can score so no one knows who to guard,” Hoskova said.
After playing three conference games in five days, the Broncs will get to rest for a week before their next game, a home game against Monmouth on Feb. 21. Rider barely edged out Monmouth in its first meeting on Feb. 2, beating the Hawks 71-69 on Monmouth’s own home court. Milligan said there is no concern over player fatigue from these three games.
“Nobody’s tired in February,” Milligan said. “Obviously, we’re trying our best to manage our players, but everybody plays minutes in February. The quick turnarounds sometimes are actually better. It’s a shorter prep time and the second time you’re facing an opponent, so it’s not a totally fresh scout. These games are big and nobody here wants to rest or sit on the bench.”
On Feb. 14, the Broncs hosted Marist, a team that has historically been among the elite in the conference.
Rider got off to a slow start in the first half, as the Red Foxes jumped out to a 5-0 lead. It took Rider nearly four minutes to get on the board, when Hoskova hit a 15-foot jumper.
Hoskova added seven more points in the first quarter, as Rider came back to lead 13-10 after one.
The lead was extended to 29-22 at the halftime buzzer.
In the third, the Broncs’ offense came alive and pulled them away. They opened the quarter on an 18-6 run, thanks in large part to 11 points by Hoskova during that run.
When the horn sounded to end the first 30 minutes of play, Rider was enjoying a 20-point lead and was well on its way to yet another win.
Marist never made a serious run in the second half, and Rider hung on for its 20th win of the season, 65-46.