Rider, MAAC Tournament
(Courtesy of MAAC Tournament)

Rider edges past Monmouth in the first-round of MAAC Tournament

Rider University women's basketball head coach, Lynn Milligan, acknowledged in the post-game interview she expected the Broncs to be a little rusty on offense, having not played since February 14.

Entering the 2021 MAAC Tournament at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey as the seventh seed, Rider (7-17, 5-13 MAAC) faced off against 10th seed Monmouth (2-16, 2-11 MAAC). The Broncs enjoyed recent success against the Hawks, sweeping the regular season while winning the schools' past six meetings.

With points hard to come by in the first half, the duo of Maya Hyacienth and Daija Moses tallied eight points apiece, knocking down four trifectas. A 9-2 run in the second quarter led to Rider holding a 20-15 advantage at halftime. Both teams struggling from the field, shooting at a 25 percent clip.

"Actually, I liked a lot of the shots we were getting; if you take away the turnovers, the shots we were getting the shots we normally get and used to make," Milligan explained." "We missed a lot of chip shots around the basket, I thought our execution was decent, and we just couldn't get our flow and put the ball in the basket. I thought our flow and intensity was pretty good, early getting a lot of steals on defense to try to generate our offense."

Rider Offense Picked Up After Halftime

In the third quarter, the Broncs offense got into gear as they stretched the margin to 30-20 with less than five minutes remaining. Meanwhile, Monmouth's offense went ice-cold from the field without a point over a two-minute span. The momentum shifted towards the end of the third quarter into the fourth as the Hawks erupted, going on a 13-2 run to re-take the lead for the first time since the second quarter. Monmouth relentlessly attacked the offensive glass and received multiple second-chance opportunities.

Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, the teams traded baskets as well as the lead. Rider junior forward Anna Ekerstedt (career high 10 points) landed a three-point play with a minute left. Tied at 40-40 with under a minute to go, Broncs junior guard Amanda Mobley drove to the basket for the go-ahead lay-up.

After Monmouth trimmed the lead to one, Moses drained a pair of free throws with 20.6 secs remaining. The Hawks had several opportunities to tie the contest up in the closing seconds, but the ball would not drop through the basket as Rider advanced to the second round.

Hyacienth totaled a game-high 11 points while Moses finished with 10. The Broncs received plenty of production off the bench (20 points) and won the paint battle 20-16. On the flipside, Monmouth dominated the glass in the loss, out rebounding Rider, 51-32. Belle Kranbuhl led the Hawks in scoring with 14.

Coaches React After Game

Mulligan on the win, "It's one of those you rather win ugly than lose pretty and was really proud of the effort we had down the stretch. We really had to grind this game out, win this game together on the defensive end, and fortunate to end up with more points than they did at the end. That's kind of our mojo this year; we've been a pretty solid defensive team for most of the season. We had some people really step up and make plays in the end. Daija, Amanda, and obviously Anna took advantage of that opportunity today."

"Daija is our lone senior; she knows that every time she puts that uniform on, it could be the last time, and today she didn't want that to be the last time. She doesn't play with a lot of fear and very confident in her abilities, and she wants the ball and knows what she's good at. There was never a doubt that she wasn't going to make those free throws, and you could just see her in eyes, and she wanted that moment and came up big."

Monmouth Associate head coach James Young on the loss and 2020-21 season, "When we talked to the girls they really focused on three words, focus, energy, and our effort and if we would have done those three things that I could live with any consequence and I felt like we did that and we played really hard. To see us get 63 shots is huge for us and we dominate the boards. I think we got 29 offensive boards, and they got 32 rebounds, so I felt like we dominated the glass.

"I think we played with the pace I wanted to....sometimes in basketball you do everything right, but if you don't put the ball in the basket enough, you're not going to win. It's been a trying year, you think about 10 kids getting Covid, having a 40-day layoff in the middle of the year with a young inexperienced roster and stinks what happened today, but I'm also encouraged by with the young roster coming back and hoping that these girls take the next step and do what they need to do."

Next up for Rider is a quarterfinal match-up against the second seed Quinnipiac (13-7, 11-5 MAAC) on Wednesday, March 10, with tip-off set for 2:30 p.m.

About The Author