By Jake Tiger and Hannah Newman
RIDER women’s basketball continued its midseason tumble, taking two more bitter conference play losses to Quinnipiac on Feb. 2 and Fairfield on Feb. 4.
Having lost six straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) games, the losing streak became the Broncs’ longest in conference play since an eight-game slide in 2016.
‘Physically off balance’
Despite giving up less than 60 points, the Broncs suffered another grueling defeat on Feb. 2, falling 59-42 to Quinnipiac after Rider’s worst offensive performance of MAAC play.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Rider’s loss was the nullification of senior center Victoria Toomey, who was quickly sidelined after picking up two personal fouls in under six minutes of play.
“I have to hold myself accountable and be better about fouls as it does take me out of the flow of the game, but I am confident in anyone who comes on the floor to be able to run our stuff,” said Toomey in an email interview with The Rider News.
Throughout the rest of the game, Toomey saw the court sporadically, before eventually fouling out with just under three minutes left to play.
As a result, the Bobcats feasted on the glass, outrebounding the Broncs 39-27 and outscoring Rider 26-8 in the paint.
“They’ve got good size. I think they kept us physically off balance inside a little bit with their size,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “[Toomey] picking up two early ones did hurt us. We needed to try and stay as big as we could with them.”
Toomey’s limited availability loomed large over an already lean Rider frontcourt, with the Broncs managing to make more 3-pointers than 2-pointers against the Bobcats. In all, they hit 8-of-19 shots from deep, while only making 7-of-29 attempts from inside the arc.
On layups in particular, Rider was 3-of-15.
“Offensively, they did a pretty good job taking us out of flow, but we got to make more shots,” said Milligan. “I thought we got some really good looks, shot the ball well from three, but we missed a lot of layups.”
The loss dropped Rider to 4-19 all-time against Quinnipiac, its last win being on March 10, 2021 at the MAAC Tournament.
‘Couldn’t get that big basket’
The outcome of Quinnipiac’s game stuck after the Broncs took home yet another loss from Fairfield on Feb. 5 leaving with a loss of 62-49. This brings the Broncs to 2-11 in MAAC play.
“I thought we took a big step defensively, you know we spent a lot of time over the last week really trying to get ourselves back on track defensively and I thought we did that both games,” said Milligan. “We held the leading scorer in the conference to two points so I felt we did some really good things but we couldn’t make that big basket you know we couldn’t get that run going on the offense but I thought we held strong defensively in both games.”
The first quarter began strong with Toomey getting a firm grip on the ball first. Both teams balanced their shots scoring one after the other, unable to find a steady dominance over the other until the quarter reached a little over the four-minute mark where Fairfield scored a 2-pointer which put the quarter at 8-6 in Fairfield’s favor.
The Broncs refused to let this slight superiority last for Fairfield after stealing the quarter 19-17 courtesy of a 3-pointers from senior guard Jessika Schiffer and graduate student guard Amanda Mobley. Although their efforts raised the stakes after Fairfield decided to match their energy by tying it at 24-24.
After Fairfield shot a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the third quarter, Mobley took charge by taking back two points just seconds after Fairfield scored in the first minute, but Fairfield got a good taste of Mobley’s threatening techniques and took control of the third quarter leading 47-32.
The Broncs score crept up by 17 points in the fourth quarter, but it was not early enough to surpass Fairfield where they emerged victorious with a 62-49 lead.
“Being connected throughout entire games is something we have been working on. Calls we didn’t like, turnovers, missed shots and anything that has us overthinking is what pushes people apart sometimes,” said Mobley who led the game in field goals with seven. “I think it’s gotten better for sure and we have been more and more connected in each game lately.”
In response to Mobley’s efforts, Milligan said, “I thought she did a terrific job, I think she’s playing like a fifth year senior captain point guard that knows that her career has an expiration date as they say and I think she’s playing that way. She’s leading her team, she’s leading it all out there and I thought she did a great job today and I think it’s something she’s going to continue to do for the rest of the season.”
The Broncs will be back on the road Thursday, Feb. 9 where they will take on Marist at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.