Guru's Overniter: Rider Stopped by Quinnipiac in MAAC Championship, Awaits WNIT Draw
The path to a berth in the NCAA tournament that opened for Rider’s women’s basketball team with two victories in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference playoffs in Albany, N.Y., was stopped short 81-73 by long-time nemesis Quinnipiac in the championship contest Monday night in the Time Union Center.
The victory allows the Bobcats (27-6) to receive the NCAA automatic bid that for a few fleeting moments in the first period seemed headed in the hands of the Broncs (24-8).
After gaining revenge in the semifinals on a Fairfield squad that had swept both contests by narrow margins on the league slate, ironically, the next and last target was Quinnipiac, the only other MAAC team to dent Rider’s magical season with a pair of wins that gained the Bobcats the number one seed by a game over Lynn Milligan’s group.
Despite star senior Robin Perkins missing her eighth game with a nagging foot injury, the Broncs seemed able to compensate once more when they bolted to a 10-point lead.
However, Julie Duggan got into some foul trouble that allowed Quinnipiac, which is now 10-0 lifetime against Rider, to crawl back and take a 30-29 lead at the half.
The Bobcats went on to outscore their opponents by 10 in the third period and built a formidable 15-point lead in the period fourth before Rider carried the fight to the end.
Quinnipiac, which was the favorite and upset in the MAAC tourney last year, got its revenge with a rally on 2016 champion Iona in the semifinals and then headed back to the trophy room to add to the one picked up in 2015.
“I thought it was a hard-fought and physical game,” said Milligan, whose team was picked 10th in the MAAC preseason coaches’ poll. “We played Rider basketball the way we are supposed to and we played the type of game that got us where we are.
“Foul trouble hurt a little in the first half and in the third quarter we made some adjustments.”
Duggan finished with 23 points for Rider, while Kamilia Hoskova scored 16 points, and Stella Johnson and Lexi Posset each scored 14.
Quinnipiac’s Aryn McClure scored 28 for Quinnipiac while Jen Fay and Adily Martucci each 16 points and Fay completed a double double with 10 rebounds.
Truth be told, keep back the tears of farewell for this Broncs contingent as a group for now because there is still a season ahead, if not in the NCAAs, then in the WNIT, where Rider will be carrying the automatic qualifier in that 64-team field, which the Broncs had targeted as a safety move in light of the strong underdog position they were in facing the Bobcats.
It’s a big enough reward for a landmark season and perhaps considering recent champions are Drexel and Rutgers, it allows the Rider group to get the feel for this time of year when play continues beyond the conference tournaments.
“This just doesn’t happen in one year,” said Milligan who will have the Broncs playing in mid-March for the first time in her 10 seasons in charge of the program. “The foundation was set the day this group of seniors came into the program.
“They have worked hard for me every day. It takes special people to build something and what these seniors have done for this program is immeasurable.”
The WNIT will announce its field late this Monday night following the release of the NCAA draw and if the Broncs don’t land a home game at Alumni Gymnasium on the Lawrenceville (N.J.) campus, it is likely they will play at some school near enough for the fan base to travel.
Teams in the area who are under consideration by the WNIT officials are Saint Joseph’s, La Salle, Drexel, and Villanova, and Penn or Princeton – whichever doesn’t win this weekend’s Ivy tourney.
For the first time in several seasons, the Penn-Princeton wrap up to the Ivy League schedule Tuesday night, which this year is 7 p.m. at The Palestra, doesn’t have an NCAA bid or key seed riding on the outcome.
That’s because the automatic bid will come out of the new four-team Ivy tourneys for men and women this weekend, also at The Palestra.
The Penn women – the Quakers men also made the field – claimed the league title and No. 1 seed Saturday night in Cambridge, Mass., beating Harvard, which has both its men and women in West Philadelphia this weekend.
Likewise Princeton, while the Brown women fought their way into the group beating Cornell Saturday night while the Yale men are the fourth team on the men’s side.
Drexel and Delaware will be at the Colonial Athletic Association tourney at James Madison this week as member campus sites go back in use after a long stint at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.
Next year Drexel will host at the Daskalakis Athletic Center in West Philadelphia followed by Delaware in 2019 hosting at its Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.
Elon, a recent addition to the league, took the number one seed in the women’s tourney.
Drexel, with the third seed, had a bye and will play Thursday against sixth-seeded Northeastern, 7:30 p.m., while Delaware, with a fourth seed, also had a bye and will meet fifth-seeded William & Mary at 2:30 p.m. The same day.
If the Dragons advance, Drexel could see JMU, the preseason favorite and defending champion, at 7 p.m. Friday, while if Delaware advances, the Blue Hens are likely to meet Elon at 4:30 p.m. To start the semifinals.
The championship is 7 p.m. Saturday night, a later start then in recent seasons.