Rider women trying to build on win over Pitt
|Carleigh Brown in action this year against Army/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE|
LAWRENCEVILLE — The Rider women’s basketball team went to Pittsburgh last Sunday expecting to walk away with a victory.
It was one that was a long time coming.
With their 65-48 win over the Panthers, the Broncs beat a major-conference opponent for the first time since a 69-66 triumph over the ACC’s Georgia Tech on Dec. 29, 1993.
“We knew we were going to win,” said Carleigh Brown, a graduate student, who has made 65 career starts. “You could tell in warmups. We knew we were going to win it, so we weren’t surprised. We were happy it was such a good win and that we beat them.”
Ironically, Agnus McGlade-Berenato, who is in the Rider Athletics Hall of Fame following a four-year stint leading the Broncs in both basketball and volleyball, coached that Yellow Jackets team and was on the sideline Sunday in charge of the Panthers.
Rider has won four of five after a 1-3 start and has already matched last season’s win total away from home with four.
“We’ve grown as a team,” said sixth-year coach Lynn Milligan. “Our number one goal every day is to get better as a team on and off the court and I think we weren’t there yet early in the season. We’ve got a little more mentally tougher.”
Yet the Broncs have been in similar positions before and seen the season fall apart. They started 8-3 a year ago, but injuries and off-the-court trouble killed their depth. Things spiraled downhill, culminating in a 3-15 conference season.
Milligan thinks it will be different this time around.
“We haven’t peaked yet,” she said of her 5-4 team. “We played really well in November and December (last year). I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet or even close.
“We’ve had some success against really good teams, but we didn’t play our best game against Pitt. We beat them because we played Rider basketball for 40 minutes, but we didn’t play our best game.”
Sironda Chambers, the senior point guard, is having her best season. She leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.8 points per game, having hit the 20-point mark three times already, including 20 against Pitt.
Milligan has three seniors and Brown, all of whom have seen frustrating losses pile up in the past.
“When there is a lull in practice, we’re like, ‘no, we’re not going down this road,’” Brown said. “That kind of transitions into games. When we feel ourselves in games going into a dip, because everyone goes through ups and downs during a game, we’ve been working on making those lulls shorter.”
Rider has two non-conference games remaining, beginning with a trip to Central Connecticut State Friday night before MAAC play begins Jan. 4 against league heavyweight Marist.
And while beating Pitt is a great confidence boost, it means nothing if it all falls apart in the MAAC.
“The kids know what the big picture is,” Milligan said. “Everything we do is to get better and prepare for January and February.”