By Dylan Manfre
Saint Peter’s put the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) on notice 28 days before the 11 teams descend to Atlantic City for the conference tournament with a 67-56 win over the women’s basketball team.
Rider at Saint Peter’s, Feb. 6
The Peacocks hosted the Broncs on Feb. 6 and from the tip, Rider did not look like the seventh-best mid-major program in the nation, according to collegeinsider.com. Certainly not after being down 13-2 with a minute left in the first quarter and being down 12 at halftime.
Rider had 20 points at halftime — its lowest total for a half all season.
The traditional good shooting was absent as the Broncs went a woeful 1-for-20 from deep and 32% from the field in the game.
Somehow senior guard Stella Johnson managed to record a 22-point 10-rebound double-double with her team struggling to find the flow.
Four of the five starters had four fouls and put Head Coach Lynn Milligan in a tough situation on deciding whether to keep players such as sophomore guard Amanda Mobley or senior guard Amari Johnson on the floor.
The team substituted senior center Aubure Johnson out and played freshman Victoria Toomey in the middle, but having the experienced senior lineup would have been ideal.
Saint Peter’s ending Rider’s 14-game winning streak shows the league the Broncs can be vulnerable. Canisius upsetting Fairfield on Feb. 8 made the Rider-Marist game at Alumni Gym on Feb. 11 much more interesting given the playoff implications as the two teams were separated by a half a game in the MAAC standings.
Rider vs. Marist, Feb. 11
Turnovers and foul trouble were the main culprits for the Broncs against Saint Peter’s. Rider would need its starters on the floor to avoid a Saint Peter’s 2.0. Favre was the only starter without four fouls.
Multiple Rider comeback efforts in the second half showed the resiliency of the group but it was to no avail in a 63-58 loss on Feb. 11.
Right from the opening tip, Amari Johnson had a fire in her eye. Notorious for being a tenacious rebounder, she managed to snag 10 at the end of the first quarter. She battled with Marist’s Rebekah Hand and ripped the ball away forcing a jump ball.
The first quarter seemed promising. Marist only held a two-point lead and Rider’s offense seemed to have a bit more intensity.
That all went away in the ensuing quarter and things got ugly.
Marist took a 13-0 run which lasted 8:46 and held Rider to shoot 1-of-16 from the field.
The Broncs scored two points in the entire quarter, a season-low. The lone bucket came on a floater from Stella Johnson with 41 seconds left. It was almost as if a lid were on the basket.
“We were taking good shots… I think it was just people getting back in the rhythm of things [after Saint Peter’s] and it was just a lid on the basket,” Stella Johnson said.
Milligan emphasized that despite the result of the game her team is “not on a skid.”
“We’re not on a slide. Everyone needs to relax. These are two completely different games,” Milligan said. “We didn’t get the job done for different reasons and all of those reasons and things we will correct by Thursday.”
Some sort of switch clicked with Rider when they left the locker room because Stella Johnson did what that she does best: score.
She pointed to an improvement in communication that allowed them to mount a comeback.
“First half I think we were a little relaxed,” Stella Johnson said. “The guards have to talk to the post and the post needs to talk to the guards and I think we needed to do that better in the first and second quarters. This game we weren’t communicating as a team.”
Stella Johnson carried the team on her back during the first five minutes of the third quarter, pulling Rider to within seven thanks to a 14-4 run.
Johnson was responsible for 10 of those points 14 points.
Over the course of the 4:49 stretch, the Broncs were 6-for-9 from the field and had two 3-pointers from Stella Johnson. However, the quarter ended with the Broncs down 47-33.
Lea Favre, who leads the MAAC in field goal percentage, finished the game shooting 2-for-10.
“I think Lea just missed shots,” Milligan said. “I mean she’s the leader in field goal percentage in the league and she has been for two years strong. Those are shots we want her to take. I think she was a little bit rushed today, I thought they sent an extra defender at her so maybe her shots were a little more rushed than normal.”
It was the Broncs’ small spark as they came to within nine at one point in the third quarter.
Stella Johnson pulled the Broncs to within eight on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter. A pair of strong defensive plays from Amari Johnson gave Rider some life as well as with the team’s full-court press.
A Farve layup pulled Rider within seven and sent Alumni Gym into a frenzy.
A turnover from Vander Weide gave Rider time to regroup. It led to another Farve layup making the score 57-55.
The Broncs were unable to close out in the final stretch of the game, losing 63-58 to the Red Foxes.
Milligan was confident her team would manage to trim their lead.
“We’ve been in this situation a lot of times,” Milligan said. “I think this is the first time we’ve been down double-digits and we didn’t come back and win. Do we want to dig ourselves that hole? No, we don’t.”
Rider’s MAAC Standing
Following the loss to Marist, the Red Foxes and the Broncs switched places in the MAAC standings. Rider now sits in second place, a half of a game behind Marist.
Rider will play three games in a week against Siena, Manhattan and Quinnipiac, all on the road. The Siena game is on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
The Manhattan and Quinnipaic games will be on ESPN+ and the Siena contest will be on ESPN3.