Princeton overpowers Broncs in opener

By Dylan Manfre

Every player, but Lea Favre, was available to play and saw action for the women’s basketball team’s exhibition against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) on Oct. 31.

Favre, a senior forward, was out with an ankle injury sustained in the preseason.

Head Coach Lynn Milligan gave each freshman their first live-game experience at Alumni Gym and integrated them in with the regular starters in the Broncs’ 89-35 victory. All but one freshman drained their first shot upon entering the game. 

Freshman guard Sophia DeMauro, who saw the most playing time out of the newcomers, connected for her first two shots from the field including one from behind the arc. She finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting and went 2-for-3 from long range and played the most minutes out of the four freshmen.

“It felt really good to put the jersey on,” DeMauro said. “I’m always looking for my teammates first, but there were opportunities where I was able to score and I thought I executed well on that. If I have [the opportunity to score] I’ll take it. If not, I’m looking to get my teammates open.”

6-foot-2 freshman center Victoria Toomey was inserted five minutes into the game when Rider was up 17-0. Toomey scored her first bucket off an assist from senior guard Stella Johnson.

“I thought [the freshmen] did a terrific job,” Milligan said. “They all made some mistakes but they made some great plays. I was really happy with their effort, especially at the end of the game.”

Milligan said that the game solidified her belief that the freshmen do not play like rookies when they are on the court.

“I am happy about that,” Milligan said. “I think they work hard enough to be able to go into a game and get nervous or be afraid to make mistakes. They’re comfortable in what they’re doing and that’s what’s important.”

Stella Johnson, who was Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Preseason Player of the Year, was seen diving into the Rider bench for a loose ball and fellow senior guard Amari Johnson even battled with her own teammates when she jumped up for a defensive rebound.

Amari Johnson commanded the first half leading all scorers with 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and grabbed seven boards. She finished with 16 points and eight boards. 

Overall, Milligan loved the way the returning group started the game as it helped usher in a 51-15 lead into the locker room at halftime.

“I thought Stella [Johnson] and Amari [Johnson] were terrific early, I thought Aubre [Johnson] was terrific defensively,” Milligan said. “[Sophomore guard] Amanda [Mobley] put her teammates in great situations and [Senior forward] Daija [Moses] did a great job guarding their best kid. I really like the energy we came out with in the first and third quarter.”

Even though TCNJ is a Division III program and not an opponent typically on Rider’s schedule, the approach to the game was the same.

“We have to have the mentality of a faceless opponent,” Milligan said. ”It’s really Rider vs. Rider. We have to make sure we’re doing what we’re doing 100% of the time.”

Milligan would not say whether one of the freshmen would hold the sixth spot in the rotation but noted that any lineup could be used at any given time.

The Broncs went with Stella Johnson, Amari Johnson, Aubre Johnson, Moses and Mobely in an 80-47 loss to the Princeton Tigers on Nov. 5.

Mobley is tasked with being the main floor general this season after former starting guard Lexi Possett graduated. She hit her first three-pointer of the game that pulled Rider to within three points in the second quarter.

Princeton, which advanced to the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament and was 12-4 in Ivy League games, took a nine-point lead into halftime and could not convert a three-pointer after making five in the opening period. Rider found itself down as much as 35 points during the game.

After Stella Johnson got off to a slow start, scoring five points through two quarters, she finished the game with 22.

Turnovers and second-chance points plagued the Broncs throughout the contest as well. Princeton outscored Rider 31-4 in points off turnovers.

The Broncs were also outrebounded 45-26.

Rider was in foul trouble a majority of the game. Toomey fouled out of the game and exited with one point. Stella Johnson and Moses each had four.

Rider concludes its opening-season road trip on Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. as the Broncs play Penn State for the first time sicne the 2014-2015 season. The game will be broadcasted live on the Big Ten Network Plus.

Follow Dylan Manfre for the latest on Rider women’s basketball.

READ: 2019-2020 Women’s Basketball Preview

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