Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Guru Report: Rider Storms Marist on the Road in the MAAC Ending Much Futility

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – While one streak continues in Division I women’s basketball without any sign of disruption into early February, two others died here Thursday night in Marist College’s McCann Arena to the delight of Rider women’s basketball fans.

The Broncs’ futility run of 27 losses to the Red Foxes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference ended with an explanation point stamped 69-56 while at the same time the outcome for the first time in 15 years made Rider’s return trip back to the campus in Lawrenceville, N.J., a much more enjoyable occasion.

The other streak of course takes center stage Saturday when Connecticut visits SMU in Dallas, the city of this year’s Women’s Final Four, in an American Athletic Conference game in which if the Huskies win, they will have broken their own all-time record with 91 straight.

Meanwhile, Rider coach Lynn Donovan-Milligan couldn’t tell you anything about that last win in the series in 2002-03 over Marist or the last win here, which occurred a season earlier in January 2002, because she did not arrive to lead the Broncs at her alma mater until five years later.

But in Donovan-Milligan’s 10th anniversary at the helm, the celebration has included some achievements not gained since before the current student population was born.

“I thought it was really a solid game for us at both ends of the floor,” she said here following the banishment of the Marist curse. “Defensively, we were challenged, we had a couple of things we had to check off, defensively, and I thought our game plan the kids stuck with, a couple of times we had to remind them, let’s stay disciplined in what we wanted to do.

“We had to change some things in how we wanted to defend, and I thought we did a good job with that, because obviously Marist is taking over 30 3s in MAAC play and making over 10 so that was the focal point of our defense today and to hold them 4-for-19 today, I’m really proud of that.”

Marist (7-10, 4-3 MAAC), beset with injuries, youth and a short roster, is trying to stay the course after years of dominating the conference until recent seasons.

“He still runs a great system, though,” Donovan-Milligan noted of her counterpart Brian Giorgis, who is in his 15th season as Marist’s coach.

Robin Perkins had a game-high 17 points for the Broncs (12-4, 6-1), while Julia Duggan had another double double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The key stats to making more history in terms of the Broncs’ “first time since” achievements were Rider’s own 3-point shooting, making 10-of-27 attempts, and a 20-0 advantage when bench contributions are compared.

Four Marist players scored in double figures: Claire Oberdorf, who is also a softball pitcher and played all 40 minutes, had 16 points, Maura Fitzpatrick scored 13, Lovi Henningsdottir had 11 points, and Hannah Hand scored 10.
Speaking of her team’s depth, Donovan-Milligan said, “That’s kind of the way we are built this year. This is probably the shortest bench we’ve played but we had to do that based on matchups.

“Our bench play had been sensational this season – Robin gets in trouble with four fouls and we’re fine. It’s been a bonus for us, we have other players who can score like (Kamila Hoskova) and Stella Johnson.

“For us to come up here and get this win on the road says something about our toughness and mentality. It’s something we talked about (the losing streak). My seniors brought it up to me. I don’t really like to bring it up, I’m not a big streak person, but my seniors said to me at shootaround today, `Coach, it’s 27, it’s 27.’ We’ve had a lot of firsts this year and Robin said to me, `Coach this needs to be another first,’ and I said, `I think you’re right.’ So we got another first today and that’s what we try to do.

“We’re very moment by moment. We’re very day by day. It’s where we have to be. We have a good mix of players as far as my group of really solid veterans and then I have little babies just trying to figure it out.

“A lot of times on the floor when I have a sophomore and three freshmen on the floor for me. We try not to let ourselves get too high. We try not to let ourselves get too low. It’s a mentality that I think this team has bought into. We just try to show up for work every day and roll up our sleeves to see if we can get better.

“Every day we try to see something we haven’t gotten done and then let’s go do it.”

In this game unlike many previously, Rider did not blitz away at the outset but they certainly knew how to close out the Red Foxes, pulling away in the fourth period.

“That’s the thing this year. We had kids step up and not be afraid to make shots. When Robin is in rhythm, she’s as good as it gets in this league.

“Marist they’re young, they’re tough, they have some much talent on that team. I’m impressed with the Hand sisters, Hannah is one of the most improved players in the league. It’s fun to play here. So to come up here and get a win it’s big. But we’re not where we want to be yet. WE just want to make sure we are peaking at the right time.”

Giorgis was impressed with Rider’s performance and said as much several times during his turn at the podium.

“Rider played a great game, especially on the defensive end,” he said. “You could tell who was the more experienced team, the deeper team. They just do the right things to get things done. Their defense kind of took us out of our game.

“We just wear down after a while. We were 0-for-11 in the second half shooting for three. We’ve been shooting it real well, lately. You could see that was their game plan to take us out of that. I just thought they did a stellar job. We wanted them to beat us from three. I don’t know how many times they’ve taken 27 threes but they did a good enough job there.

“You could just see they’re a better team that’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. It doesn’t matter who they’re going us against. We’re still a young team, we’re still trying to learn. There’s a lot of good learning points in this game.”

Giorgis said he is not surprised by what Rider has been doing.

“Their biggest key is they don’t care who scores now. Perkins a lot of times took a lot of bad shots last year. And this year, I mean des she take a bad shot here or there? Yeah. But this year it’s just a matter of what’s available and they do a very good job in that

“Those people have been there a while and they didn’t lose many from last year. And they play so well together, instead of having some very good individual people, now the whole is greater than the sum of their parts. And that was impressive to watch today. Can we beat them down the road. Who Knows but it’s going to take a great job to do it.”

Rider next hosts Fairfield on Saturday.

Looking Ahead

On the local scene Friday, Villanova host Seton Hall in an 11:30 a.m. Big East game at the Pavilion and on Sunday St. John’s visits the Wildcats at 1 p.m.

In the Colonial Athletic Association, Drexel is at UNCW Friday night at 7 p.m and then Sunday it’s on to Elon, which beat them in Philadelphia last Friday. Delaware hosts league favorite James Madison at 7 p.m. with the Duke coming off an upset loss at Towson. On Sunday the Blue Hens head to Hofstra.

In the Ivy League on Friday night, the new tournament at the end of the regular season involving four teams has caused some changes in scheduling. Thus, Friday and Saturday night there will be men’s and women’s doubleheaders. On Friday Penn hosts Yale at 5:30 p.m.while Princeton hosts Brown the same time. The men play at 8 p.m. On Saturday the traveling teams switch and still play 5:30 p.m. on the women’s side with Penn hosting Brown and. Princeton hosting Yale.

Elsewhere Saturday, Temple visits Tulsa going for nine in a row in an American Athletic Association Conference game at 3 p.m., Rutgers hosts Michigan State at noon in a Big Ten game, and in the Atlantic 10, Saint Joseph’s goes for three in a row visiting rival La Salle, though this is not the game that also counts in the Big 5.



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