The women’s basketball team returned to the court on Sunday afternoon hoping to rebound from a tough loss to Iona and remain in contention for a top four seed in the MAAC.

The Stags were able to do just that, running Rider off the court in a 77-63 win.

However, early on it appeared that a win might not be as easy as the Broncs’ 1-17 record indicated. Rider hung tough early on and Fairfield clung to a 12-9 lead.’

Head Coach Dianne Nolan was worried that this might happen.

‘It is always dangerous to play a team like Rider with the season they’re having,’ she said.

But, Rider’s success was short lived as the Stags went on an 8-2 run that put them up by nine with slightly less than 12 minutes to play.

Fairfield was able to stretch that lead to 15 by halftime, shooting a scorching 64 percent from the field and holding Rider to only 33 percent.

Nolan was pleased with the way the first half went, noting the importance of getting that early lead.

‘It’s very important. It’s been our Achilles heel all year long. We pressed looking to get some easier buckets,’ she said.

Over the next half, the Stags were able to hold onto a double-digit lead despite some sloppy play. Rider was able to cut it to nine with nearly10 minutes to play, but Fairfield fought back to provide the final margin of 14.

Dealing with an overmatched opponent, Nolan decided to push the ball when on offense and applied full court pressure on defense early on.

‘We pushed it in transition. It’s not to our strength to grind it out. We have very athletic, smart players who want to run the ball,’ said Nolan.

This led to plenty of open looks for the Stags, as they shot 60 percent for the game and went to the line 29 times.’

However, the fast pace did have some drawbacks as Fairfield turned the ball over 29 times. But, the Stags’ pressure forced 31 from the Broncs: 13 steals and multiple traveling calls.

Senior guard Cara Murphy, who celebrated her 23rd birthday, paced both teams by pouring in a season-high 17 points. Nine of those points came on three-pointers, the last of which moved her into fourth place all-time in Fairfield history for made threes, passing Megan Light.

‘We need offensive punches,’ said Nolan. ‘We get Cara in situations where she can get them.’

Murphy downplayed her accomplishments, emphasizing her desire to do anything to help the team.

‘It was great. We came out extremely focused. Anything to help the team,’ said Murphy.

Two other players followed right behind her. Sophomore guard Megan Caskin had 16 and freshmen Stephanie Geehan put in 15, a career-high.

Geehan has been impressive her first year playing college ball. Sunday was no different, as she pulled down seven rebounds and had five blocks to go along with her 15 points.

‘Steph is terrific,’ said Nolan. ‘She is constant, so smart, and rarely makes a mistake.’

With the win, the Stags improve to 9-10 overall and 5-3 in the MAAC. However, the Loyola Greyhounds won on Sunday as well, keeping the Stags in fourth place in the conference, one game behind Loyola.

Next up for the Stags is Niagara on Friday at the Arena at Harbor Yard. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU. Earlier in the season, Fairfield defeated the Purple Eagles, 77-63.

Box Score

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