By Dylan Manfre
Rider women’s basketball senior guard Lenaejha Evans walked off the court head buried in her jersey. She was frustrated. Rightfully so, Rider began the final quarter on a 13-0 run and ended up losing the game 64-60 to Quinnipiac on Dec. 18 at Alumni Gym.
She played a physically intense game and finished with 13 points in the conference opener.
Her teammates embraced her after she played one of the most competitive games of the year against Quinnipiac.
“We’re two good teams playing against each other,” Evans said. “They have good guards, good post [players]. Just battling it out seeing who wants it more. [That’s] basically how it is.”
Rider Head Coach Lynn Milligan said at the beginning of the season that conference play this season could be the most competitive it has been in a while. What better way to open up the conference slate than against Quinnipiac?
The Broncs have had more success against the star-studded Bobcats recently than most teams in the conference. Before this afternoon’s game, Rider won four of the last five meetings. The crowd was getting involved. It had all the characteristics of one too. Fast offense, quality passing, even a buzzer-beater from junior guard Jessika Schiffer to break a tie. Assistant coaches Steve Harney and MyNeasha Makenzie were animated on the bench.
“Most MAAC games are going to come down to a possession here, a possession there,” Milligan said.
The Broncs were hitting many of their shots and the scoring was spread out. Schiffer had a career-high 22 points and hit six 3-pointers. Eleven of those 22 came in the third quarter.
She was in a groove. Schiffer’s offensive spark was a big catalyst for Rider’s 13-0 run in the final quarter putting Rider up 54-38. Quinnipiac did not score for the first seven minutes of the period. A 3-pointer in the right corner of the court from Bobcats guard Mackenzie DeWees with 2:58 left became the first points of the quarter for Quinnipiac.
The Broncs were fluid. They had the chemistry, communication and urgency they had been searching for all season. The puzzle pieces came together in the fourth quarter of the first MAAC game of the year.
“We had great flow and great passes and off that, I was able to score,” Schiffer said. “I felt comfortable because we had such a great flow.”
Those final three minutes are when Rider’s defense broke down and the glaring disparities on the offensive glass and second-chance points became apparent. The Broncs were outrebounded offensively 21-8 and outscored in second-chance points 21-5.
“It was the difference,” Milligan said of the offensive rebounding gap. “Let’s call it for what it is. It absolutely was the difference in the game, there’s no question. It’s obviously been something we’ve been struggling with all season.”
Quinnipiac scored 13 of its 16 fourth-quarter points in the final 2:58. Quinnipiac post players Cur’Tiera Haywood and Mikala Morris combined for 10 of those after DeWees’ 3-pointer.
Schiffer and Evans both said they will use this game as motivation going forward. If Rider plays as it did on Dec. 18, a win can be within reach in their next game against Siena on Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.