By David Nugent
The Rider women’s basketball team dropped contests to MAAC-leading Fairfield (18-5, 11-1 MAAC) on Feb. 2, 51-35, and Loyola (MD) on Saturday (10-13, 6-6 MAAC), 71-57, bringing its losing streak to eight games.
The Broncs will host Canisius (11-12, 5-7 MAAC) tonight at 7 p.m., and Manhattan (12-11, 6-5 MAAC) on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Canisius has won three of its last four games. The Golden Griffins won a 58-57 decision at Niagara on Saturday after they lost 70-62 to Loyola on Feb. 2.
Rider dropped the first meeting between the two, losing 60-54 on Jan. 29, at Canisius, so Head Coach Lynn Milligan knows what the Broncs need to do on both sides of the ball to provide the best opportunity for victory.
“We just played Canisius very recently so they will be fresh in our minds,” Milligan said. “Against them we will have to defend the three-point line and attack them offensively from the inside out.”
The Golden Griffins are led by sophomore Jamie Ruttle and junior Ashley Durham, who are averaging 11.4 and 10.4 points per game, respectively.
On Sunday, the Jaspers’ defensive scheme will present a difficult challenge for Rider.
“Manhattan plays a very unique 1-3-1 defense for the entire game,” Milligan said. “We will have to be ready to move the ball effectively on offense to give ourselves good looks at the basket.”
The Jaspers, who sit in a third-place tie in the MAAC standings, are led by a pair of seniors, Lindsey Loutsenhizer and Schyanne Halfkenny. Loutsenhizer leads Manhattan with 12.6 points per game, while Halfkenny scores 10.3.
The Broncs have not won a game since Jan. 8 when they defeated Loyola 67-61 at Alumni Gym. Milligan feels her team needs to work harder during games and practices.
“In order for us to turn around this slump, we have to keep working hard at both ends of the floor and be effective in our preparation and practice time,” she said.
Rider wasted two 12-point performances from freshman Emily Fazzini and sophomore MyNeshia McKenzie in Saturday’s loss to Greyhounds.
Fazzini scored five of Rider’s seven points to start the second half, cutting Loyola’s lead to eight, but 43-36 was as close as the Broncs would get.
Junior Caitlin Bopp contributed four points and eight rebounds, adding to her terrific past against Loyola. Bopp is averaging 11.6 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game in her career against the Greyhounds.
Facing a tough test in first-place Fairfield, Rider came within 16 points with 7:03 left to play, but ended up falling by the same amount. The Broncs’ offense couldn’t find its rhythm as Rider scored a season-low 35 points.
Bopp finished with nine points and 14 rebounds, giving her a total of 597, ninth-best in school history as she passed Jennifer Feeney who had 590 rebounds from 1992 to 1995.
McKenzie had nine points and four rebounds while junior Carleigh Brown added eight rebounds.
Rider has suffered losses to key personnel who have contributed significantly to its eight-game skid.
“With [senior] Ali Heller and [junior] Sironda Chambers out, we lost 20 points from the perimeter,” Milligan said. “We are still finding our new combinations and scoring different ways.”
With some time, Milligan believes Rider will play better basketball.
“We have some players who did not play as much early in the season that are now in different roles and are adapting to them,” she said.