Teaneck, NJ - A late fourth period surge saw FDU earn their first victory of the season. The 64-59 decision over Rider at the Rothman Center on Sunday was also the first for new coach Stephanie Gaitley. Notes n’ numbers…..
Changes. Not only is there a new mentor on the sidelines, there have been wholesale roster changes as well. On the coaching side Stephanie Gaitley has taken over for Ang Szumilo, her former assistant at Fordham, who left the Northeast Conference school to go to Iona. Gaitley does not have a returning starter. There are five bench players back but none recorded a start in any single contest.
Game of runs. Gaitley was very accurate in calling this, "several games within a game." There were seven lead changes and five ties. After building a seven point lead after one period, Rider found themselves down nine at intermission. The Broncs managed just 22 points over the first 20 minutes. Two in the second period. The MAAC representatives were not going away. The third period Lynn Milligan’s group found the mark putting up 23 points. They took a 45-42 lead into the final period.
The last ten minutes. FDU was scoreless the first 4:16 of the final period before a Ciera Cevallos three pointer broke the ice. That proved to be huge as the next possession saw a defensive stop followed by a Cevallos assist on an Abby Conklin layup. That brief 5-0 run gave the Knights some new life. Down the stretch though, Rider seemed to be in the driver's seat sporting a seven point lead with just under three minutes remaining. Over the final two and a half minutes FDU went on a 14-2 run to close out the victory.
Shooting. Defense is a major emphasis with Gaitley. This afternoon, the coach noted, "we made shots and that was big….This was a big win to get. (Coach) Lynn (Milligan) does a great job and is an excellent coach." Interestingly both teams mirrored each other with identical 21 of 48 from the floor for 44%. A difference was the fourth period with FDU hitting 46% including 42% from long distance. Rider was limited to 39% and 0-3 from deep.
Individually for the Knights. Staci Williams led FDU with 12 points. The freshman guard also made some big plays in the stretch.
Abby Conklin logged 40 minutes for the fourth consecutive game. The senior guard scored 10 points, handed out six assists and pulled down 6 rebounds.
Lily Parke was singled out by Gaitley for turning in a solid nine point, eight rebound effort. "She stepped up and made plays," said Gaitley of her sophomore forward.
Bella Toomey, another freshman forward with a great upside, scored eight points with four rebounds and two blocked shots.
Cevallos, who hit that big fourth period three pointer, also added eight points.
Youth. "We found a way to win," Gaitley pointed out. With a young team that’s something to be admired. FDU started the season with four road games. Their first home contest was the prior Wednesday. On the schedule "there are no ‘gimmees’," per Gaitley.
Despite the 0-5 start the attitude is decidedly upbeat. "They are great in practice," Gaitley praised. "They work hard every day and have a great attitude and willingness to learn." That was evident throughout the game. When Rider made runs and threatened to open it up, the body language of the FDU players never wavered. They stayed positive and focused. It paid off in the end.
Post game Gaitley enthusiastically proclaimed, "For a day it’s time to celebrate." And well deserved.
Numbers. In a 63 possession game FDU held a 105-91 advantage in offensive efficiency. The Knights had entered the contest with a 74 offensive efficiency. Staci Williams’ 12 points were a career high. Rider’s Makayla Firebaugh led all scorers with 23. The senior guard had an interesting line- shooting 1 of 5 from two point range and a white hot 6 of 8 from downtown. Rider was forced into a 23% turnover rate while FDU committed miscues at a 19% rate. Rider is now 2-4. FDU won the battle of the glass by a narrow 27-26 margin. In the stretch when they made that dramatic run, the rebounding was at its best with the Knights limiting Rider to one shot on a number of possessions.