By Dylan Manfre
Two weeks away from game action boded well for the women’s basketball team on Dec. 7.
As the Broncs returned from their trip to Florida, staying out of foul trouble was atop the itinerary when the team had its first practice, and in Rider’s 70-43 win against La Salle.
“With a two-week layoff, the way we started this game is the way we wanted to,” Head Coach Lynn Milligan said. “We focused a lot on defense … if you check our scores in Florida we gave up a lot of buckets. Our overall intensity on defense was excellent.”
Rider forced 18 turnovers and held La Salle a woeful 16% from the floor for the entire contest.
Heading into the game the Broncs had committed the fourth-most fouls in the country, averaging 24.2.
“Obviously we have been fouling more than we want to and there’s a little discipline,” Milligan said. “If we do think the way that we want more than likely our fouls will lessen. Some of ours come off aggression and some come off just positioning. We try to lock in on our fundamentals and our philosophy on defense to hopefully help that.”
Senior guard Amari Johnson ended the game with her second-straight double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. She also tied her career-high with four blocks.
Senior guard Stella Johnson, who leads the nation in points per game, led all scorers with 22. She ended the contest a rebound and an assist shy of a triple-double.
From the opening tip, the Broncs looked as if they never left the court. Senior forward Aubre Johnson and Amari Johnson were locked in defensively and helped Rider preserve an early 7-0 lead. La Salle committed three turnovers and shot a combined 3-for-26 in the first half.
“With the way [La Salle] shoots the [3-point shot], I thought we were pretty locked in on that holding them to three makes off of 17 attempts when they’re used to making 9 for 30, so I think that was a good step for us in terms of game planning,” Milligan said.
Forward Lea Favre made the first start of her senior season replacing senior forward Daija Moses. She was reintegrated back into the rotation after missing the team’s exhibition game and season opener due to an ankle injury sustained in the preseason.
“Lea has been working her way back and has given us some good minutes down in Florida and Daija has done an unbelievable job filling in, technically, for Lea and I think what it’s done is raise Daija’s game,” Milligan said. “Now we have a formidable one-two punch at our [power forward] spot.”
Favre made her first two field goals in the game but came out after she picked up her second foul. She ended the game strong and finished with 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting.
Senior guard Lexi Stover came into the game and provided immediate assistance off the bench, grabbing two offensive boards. She finished with nine points and a career-high five rebounds, three of which were offensive.
Stover is 3-5 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep. She has 9 points and five boards. Fantastic game for her.— Dylan Manfre (@Dylan_Manfre11) December 7, 2019
“Coach always says be ready when you get open shots and we talked at halftime about when Stella [Johnson] and Amari [Johnson] are driving we have to move for them to get open and be able to hit the shot,” Stover said. “When we do that it just creates more opportunities for them to get in the lane.”
Unnecessary fouls and a sequence of missed shots allowed La Salle to pull to within nine points and end the half on a 13-3 run. It also made 8 of 10 free throws over the 4:48 stretch.
The avoidable fouls continued as Moses and Favre each picked up their third within the first five minutes of the third quarter. Mobley picked up her third later on and just seconds after being inserted into the game, DeMauro picked up her first.
By the 8:42 mark of the fourth each of Rider’s starters had three fouls.
One positive from the final 10 minutes was Stover continued to find her teammates and have the hot hand from behind the arc.
She was one of the key bench players who stepped up when their number was called upon. Early in the fourth quarter, senior forward Tracey Goodman hit two 3-pointers. The reserves contributed 18 points.
“The championship teams have everybody scoring,” Stella Johnson said. “We need that to keep winning games. It’s big for people like [Lexi] Stover, Tracy [Goodman], Amanda [Mobley] and Amari [Johnson] to keep hitting too.”
Six games into the season Stella Johnson addressed the state of the team.
“A lot of doubts came in around our first three games [which Rider went 2-1 in] and we proved the people who thought we weren’t going to do good wrong,” Stella Johnson said.
Rider will have another chance to prove it can compete with power five schools in its contest at Georgetown on Dec. 14 at 2 p.m.
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