Lady Lions Fall Short to Rider
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Behind Stella Johnson’s 25 points, Rider defeated Penn State 78-70 in the Lady Lions’ home opener.
The Lady Lions came into the game off a come-from-behind win against Towson and hoped that they could do it for the second time in as many games.
But Rider senior Stella Johnson would not let it happen. Behind her clutch free throw shooting and stout defense, the Broncs were able to secure their first win of the season.
Here are some takeaways from Sunday’s game:
For the second time this season, the Lady Lions could not muster double digits in the first quarter of the game. This time it cost them. While the Lady Lions were on a seven-minute scoring drought, the Broncs were able to go on a 17-0 run, and they wouldn’t give the lead up for the rest of the game.
“They outplayed us, they outhearted us, they outhustled us,” Lady Lions head coach Carolyn Kieger said. “I’m very disappointed in our energy and our effort.”
The lack of energy was evident early, as Penn State’s press was broken with ease leading to a lot of easy baskets for Rider.
“[Full-court pressure is] hard to do when you’re doing it at 50% effort,” Kieger said. “When you’re trying to press or when you’re trying to trap, and you’re not doing it with [total] effort, you’re going to get scored on.”
The offense is a work in progress
“Right now, it’s more of chaos versus organized chaos,” Kieger said when describing the current state of the offense.
At times, that chaotic offense was hard to watch, as the Lady Lions shot 31.4% from the field and only 23% from the 3-point line. For most of the game, it looked as if the paint were clogged, and the Lady Lions couldn’t seem to find a perimeter threat, as no player made more than one 3-pointer.
But Kieger believes that there’s a bigger issue with the offense right now.
“The biggest thing I’m concerned with right now is our assist-to-turnover ratio,” Kieger said. “We need our young guards to learn quickly how to set people up.”
The Lady Lions only registered eight assists while coughing up 14 turnovers.
Free throws, free throws, free throws
While Penn State was trying to claw its way back into the game, Rider played an aggressive downhill style that forced the referees to call fouls. The Lady Lions paraded to the free-throw line and shot 35, including 16 in the fourth quarter. But getting to the charity stripe was half the battle, as Penn State missed 11 total free throws, including five during the fourth quarter.
Conversely, Rider shot six fewer free throws but scored the same amount of points from the foul line, posting a perfect 12-for-12 in the final quarter.
In an offense that isn’t built for a ton of perimeter scoring, it is critical for Penn State to be efficient from the free-throw line.
It's still a young team
“They’re learning a new offense, they’re learning a new coach,” Kieger said about her team’s current position. “There’s a lot of newness for them right now.”
But Kieger believes that it’s up to the staff to make the learning curve less steep so that the Nittany Lions, which play only one senior, can become more comfortable on offense.
Sophomore forward Lauren Ebo also understands the importance of building up the young players especially coming off a loss.
“[We’re] making sure we uplift them,” Ebo said about how to talk to the freshman after their first collegiate loss. “[We’re] letting them know that we have their back as long as they give effort and try their hardest.”
The Lady Lions will continue their five-game homestand when they take on Fordham on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Jerome Taylor is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.