By Matthew LoPuzzo and Jake Tiger
Rider women’s basketball posted a win and a loss in its recent pair of weekend contests, beating Saint Peter’s 63-53 on Feb. 16 before coming frustratingly closer to conquering Quinnipiac, ultimately losing 59-54 on Feb. 18.
The split gives the Broncs a 4-13 record in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play, as they remain the conference’s tenth seed.
‘A good way to play’
Picking up some much-needed momentum heading into March, the Broncs were able to defeat Saint Peter’s in a battle on Feb. 16. Each team fought for control, but the Broncs managed to pick up their fourth win in MAAC play.
On the backs of junior forward Raphaela Toussaint and junior guard Makayla Firebaugh, the Broncs were able to bring the heat in the paint and from beyond the arch.
The Broncs started the game off hot, especially Toussaint, who had six of Rider’s eight opening points by attacking the paint.
“I’m old school, I always like inside-out,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “I think that’s a good way to play the game of basketball.”
The Broncs displayed high-quality ball movement that gave Toussaint and Firebaugh the looks they needed.
“Saint Peter’s primary defense is 2-3 [zone]. We’ve worked really hard on the passes that we wanted to make where we wanted to get our looks,” said Milligan.
Starting the game off 0-of-6 from three, the Broncs had to be creative to find baskets. One of those ways was graduate student guard Amanda Mobley creating offense with pestering defense with four steals that led to easy scores for the Broncs.
Junior guard Molly Lynch got the Broncs on the board with their first 3-pointer at the start of the second quarter, and from there, the Broncs connected on 4-of-7 3-pointers in the second quarter.
The Broncs were sitting sturdy with a 13-point lead, but the Peacocks adjusted and they got to lead down to six heading into halftime.
Tossaint opened the scoring for the Broncs with another basket at the rim, and the junior finished the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds to give her four double-doubles on the season.
Firebaugh wasn’t far behind with 17 points, as both Broncs currently sit in the top 10 of MAAC scoring.
The Peacocks cut the lead to one point, but the Broncs gained momentum from Firebaugh getting in transition and another Toussaint layup.
Rider played a near flawless fourth quarter that propelled them back up to a 12-point lead that they would never surrender.
‘We didn’t get it done’
In a crushing loss to second-place Quinnipiac on Feb. 18, Rider played perhaps its best basketball of the season.
The Broncs’ 59-54 defeat was bookended by frames of familiar mediocrity, but the middle portion of the game included a 13-minute, 34-14 run in which they were nigh unstoppable from rim to rim.
“I thought we played really well tonight for the majority of the game,” said Milligan. “Fourth quarter execution got us. We just didn’t execute. We put ourselves in a situation to win the game and we didn’t get it done. … It’s really that simple.”
A mediocre first quarter netted Rider a 17-13 deficit, and in the second, the Broncs sank even further. Rider was unable to find a single bucket for over seven minutes, and it appeared as if the Bobcats would cruise to a 10th straight win.
However, a 3-pointer from Toussaint ended the dry spell and sparked a sudden, 15-6 Rider run in the first half’s final four minutes.
The Broncs carried their momentum into the third and led by as many as 10 points late in the quarter, but a dubious mixture of fouls, turnovers and inopportune breakdowns resulted in them fumbling away the victory in crunch time.
“We needed to get stops and rebounds, and we needed to execute,” said Firebaugh. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to.”
The difference maker down the stretch was made at the free throw stripe. Of the Broncs 14 fouls in the game, 13 were committed in the second half and seven were in the fourth quarter.
In all, the Bobcats took 18 free throws to Rider’s seven, and took the lead back with two minutes to spare.
“I think that we’ll just get back in the gym on Monday,” said senior center Victoria Toomey. “We’ll just get back to work, and work towards getting a full 40 [minutes].”
The Broncs hit the gym in preparation for their Feb. 23 matinee with Mount St. Mary’s, who rank eighth in the MAAC. The game begins at 11 a.m. and will be broadcasted nationally on ESPNU.