By Carlos Toro
The new year brought new fortunes for the Broncs in the form of a two-game winning streak.
Rider (7-14, 4-7 MAAC) defeated Siena and Canisius last week in competitive, low-scoring conference battles. The win over Canisius came with a last-second, game-winning free throw.
Head Coach Lynn Milligan believes that the team is starting to play up to its potential, especially defensively.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to hold teams in the 40s [points scored],” Milligan said. “The staff does an outstanding job preparing our guys day in and day out on the defensive side.”
In Rider’s game against Siena (12-9, 5-7 MAAC) on Jan. 28, the Saints had the lead for just over seven minutes, before Rider went on a 6-0 scoring run led by freshman forward C’Quoya Haughton to give the team a 15-14 lead.
Coming out of halftime, the Broncs had a 26-23 lead and never looked back. For the last 10 minutes of the game, Siena couldn’t get closer than five points, and Rider eventually won 56-49.
Rider’s starters did not have a great game shooting the ball, only making eight of 29 field goal attempts. The Broncs, however, found a spark in red-shirt senior Lashay Banks, who scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench.
Senior Marritta Gillcrease contributed seven points and 13 rebounds, while junior guard Manon Pellet had seven points in 17 minutes of action.
Pellet has seen improvement in the team after putting together a number of wins in the previous two weeks.
“I think definitely [we are starting to play better],” Pellet said. “It was hard for us, as a team, to get there, but now that we finally are, it feels really good.”
The team then hosted Canisius (8-13, 6-6 MAAC) on Feb. 1, and despite struggling to score in the opening half, Rider was able to take a 25-23 lead to the locker room.
After being held to less than 30 percent shooting for the first half, Canisius started the second half on an 8-0 scoring run to take the lead.
Rider could only manage eight points on 3 of 12 from the field in the first 10 minutes of the closing half. Eventually, the team pulled ahead when red-shirt sophomore guard Robin Perkins scored to make it 40-39 in the Broncs’ favor with 6:28 remaining in the game.
Moments later, the Broncs moved out to a 47-41 lead, but the Golden Griffins managed to cut the lead to two points with one minute remaining. After a free throw from Canisius senior guard Kayla Hoohuli the lead was cut to 50-49.
Canisius retook control when their junior guard Emily Weber sank a pair of free throws with nine seconds remaining, putting Canisius up by one. But Pellet, who missed a pair of free throws minutes earlier, drew a shooting foul with 0.3 seconds remaining and made the two free throws to win the game.
Perkins finished the game with 13 points and Banks led the game with 18 points and had nine rebounds.
Rider will try to go for the season sweep when the team next faces Siena on Feb. 5 at Alumni Gym. Then they travel to Hamden, Conn., on Feb. 7 to face off against Quinnipiac (19-3, 11-0 MAAC), which is the only undefeated team in MAAC play.
Despite the low-scoring offense, Milligan still believes that if their defense plays well enough, then they’ll have a chance to succeed.
“I feel like our defense puts us in a situation to win games,” Milligan said. “We feel like if we hold any team in the 50s, then we have a chance to win.”