By Dylan Manfre
“Good grief,” as Charlie Brown famously says.
The question entering the game was which version of Rider women’s basketball would come at the People’s United Center in Hamden, Connecticut. The answer was a version that the Broncs would rather slide under the rug.
This final tune-up for the MAAC tournament sounded more like a cacophony than a symphony in a 71-49 loss on March 5.
“I think we saw a good effort that wasn’t good enough,” Head Coach Lynn Milligan said. “Quinnipiac played really well, I just think they threw that first punch. … We needed a little more timely buckets. Our opportunities were there today, we just didn’t get it done.”
Quinnipiac flexed its muscle throughout the game in the first half. With every Bobcat bucket, it seemed Mackenzie DeWees, Mikala Morris and company were punishing Rider down even further as it struggled to generate its offense.
“I just think we missed some shots today,” Milligan said. “I thought we got some open looks. Physically, they got the best of us one too many times.”
Rider showed a few of its struggles in the first quarter. It had spotty shot selection which led to the Broncs getting into an early hole. Only three players scored for Rider as it ended the opening quarter scoring eight points on 23.1% shooting from the field.
Freshman forward Emily Strunk tried to get the offense going, knocking down her first 3-pointer of the season as Rider headed into the second media timeout trailing by 10. She was 0-for-10 from deep entering the game.
Strunk finished with a respectable stat line of eight points, six boards and a block in season-high 19 minutes.
“Where I was, prior to this game was something that I wasn’t really too happy with so I’ve been working a lot,” Strunk said. “Today, I was pretty confident with what I thought I could do and it really showed.”
Though she had a solid game, she believes something did not feel right.
“I think we came out kind of flat,” Strunk said. “We were all hoping to come out like we did against Fairfield and that’s just not really what happened.”
Junior forward Anna Ekerstedt had a solid eight rebounds. As a team, Rider saw a better product on the glass which is something Millligan stressed to the team before the game.
“One of our keys offensively was to give ourselves more opportunities and we want to generate as many opportunities as possible on the offensive end,” Milligan said. “I thought Anna did a great job today giving us a couple more opportunities that we needed to take advantage of, which we didn’t.”
The second half-version of Rider looked different from the first-half product. The Broncs’ early run cut the deficit to as few as eight points in the quarter and held Quinnipiac to three points in around six minutes. The Bobcats weathered the storm and pushed their lead north of 20. that’s when the game got away.
With the loss, Rider locks up the No. 9 seed and will likely face No. 8 Iona, who it split the season series against. Marist, who plays at 7 p.m., on March 5, holds the No. 10 spot and would enter a tiebreaker with Rider if it beats Manhattan. According to the tiebreaker rules, Rider would still hold the No. 9 spot via a sweep of Canisius.
Unlike last year when Rider had 23 days in between its final game and the conference tournament, the Broncs have three days before its first game on March 8, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, when it faces the Iona Gaels. Tip-off is set bright and early at 9:30 a.m. at Boardwalk Hall.
“Everybody’s in the same boat now. Everybody is playing today. Everybody’s got two days to get down there and get ready,” Milligan said.