Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Rider avenges winless start to MAAC play with road win at Saint Peter's

Lynn Milligan urges her Rider team during Broncs' contest at Saint Peter's, a 57-52 road win. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

JERSEY CITY, NJ -- If ever one wants to know how it feels to go from hunters to the hunted, just ask Lynn Milligan. 

A year ago, her Rider Broncs were putting together a highlight reel season: A 24-9 record, automatic WNIT bid; their first as a Division I program, thanks to a runner-up finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. Now in her 11th season, Milligan earned MAAC Coach of the Year and MBWA Coach of the Year honors. What made it all especially sweet was the fact that Rider was picked tenth in the MAAC preseason poll. 

This season, to date, has seen a reversal of fortunes. Rider entered Yanitelli Center to face Saint Peter’s with a 3-10 record that included an 0-2 start in MAAC play. To Milligan, the change has not been a shock. 

“We were a veteran team last year,” she said following the Broncs 57-52 victory over Saint Peter’s. “We lost, among others, the MAAC Player of the Year (Robin Perkins). This year we are a young group, seven sophomores among them.” 

Milligan fully agrees, and expected to have the bullseye on her back this season. 

“After our year last season, there is going to be a little revenge factor,” she admitted. "That’s fine. To us, we just concern ourselves with getting better each time out.”

Youth is one issue. Their offense is another facet Rider needs to see improve. Rider entered Saint Peter’s shooting 38 percent from the floor, something she considered “very poor in November,” but has improved. Now, the concern is on offensive rebounding. 

“We allowed too many second chances tonight,” she said. “You give up offensive rebounds, you allow second chances.”

To Milligan, no lead is safe. She is crouched in front of her bench, studying and simultaneously agonizing over every possession. It has nothing to do with the struggles of this season, rather it is just her style. 

“That is just me,” she admitted. “I am very intense, but at the same time, I want our team; especially the young players, to realize the game is 40 minutes. You do not let up for a single possession. Just keep playing hard.” 

”We lost our first two conference games at home (to Marist and Siena) and they were tough losses. To go on the road and get a win like this is big. We needed to get a conference win.”

Of added significance, on a night where leading scorer Kamila Hoskova (15.5 ppg) scored just three points, others stepped up. Stella Johnson, a sophomore guard, led all scorers with 29 points. Johnson consistently entered the paint and also knocked down two treys. Junior guard Lexi Posset added 15, as well as the free throws in the final seconds that iced it.

“We grinded,” Milligan said. “This whole week was a grind. This was our third game in six days. Not an easy week, and all were conference games. To come away with this one was nice.”

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