By Dylan Manfre
After looking at Navy’s roster, if senior guard Jennifer Coleman could be stopped then Rider might have a good chance of winning the game on Dec. 12 at Alumni Gym.
Coleman came in averaging 23.3 points per game which are tied for fifth in the country. Navy does not have another player averaging over seven points per game. However, seeing how games have transpired for the Broncs this season, wins are hard to get.
Rider allowed the second-most points all season in a 73-59 loss to Navy where, after an energy-filled first half, it simply lost its steam and Coleman ended the game with a near triple-double with 28 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
Head Coach Lynn Milligan’s thoughts on the second half were bluntly put.
“I thought navy did a great job and we did not,” she said after a lengthy locker-room conversation.
The Broncs trailed by as many as 18 in the fourth quarter and gave up 28 points.
The senior guard got a bit more involved later in the second quarter and was able to find space to knock down some shots including that last shot of the half; a falling one-handed floater on the right side of the basket.
Rider’s defense relinquished the 23-22 halftime lead and its defense lacked the intensity it had in the game’s opening minutes. When asked about it, Milligan did not express concern. Navy only made 26% of its shots from long range.
“I think our defense as a whole [is] something we talked about … we just got to be on-point with our personnel,” Milligan said.
Sophomore guard Makayla Firebaugh helped keep Rider close in the third period and with 2:53 left in the quarter, she had scored eight of her 10 points. Coleman was still lurking near and made Rider commit a few sloppy turnovers off inbound passes.
The Broncs were forced into two half-court violations for failing to cross within eight seconds. Navy entered the quarter with all the intensity in the world which is what fueled a 10 point advantage with 7:20 remaining in regulation. That ballooned to as much as 18 in the quarter.
That stretch in particular was something that irked Firebaugh as she was quick to point out the communication flaws that transpired in the game.
“Nobody talked. Nobody seemed connected out there to me,” Firebaugh said. “We’re all out there and we were all playing together but talking brings us together … which I don’t think none of us did or stepped up to even try to do.”
Rider’s defense in the first half was particularly exceptional. Coleman was held to eight points at halftime and junior guard Jessika Schiffer had four quick steals which included three in a span of two minutes and 21 seconds. It was the early spark Rider needed but could not build off of.
“I always try to keep my defender in front of me and read up the game to see where the ball could go,” said Schiffer, who finished with 11 points.
The Broncs closed out nonconference play with another loss to a winnable opponent. It sealed the envelope on a rough stretch of games. Next up is Quinnipiac at Alumni Gym on Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. to begin conference play where the standings reset to 0-0.