Preview: Riders at Rebels

Leicester Riders look to bounce back after their first defeat of the season, as they head to the South East to face the Essex Rebels. 

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Essex Rebels

Essex Sports Arena

Saturday, December 9, 4pm

Falling in the capital 

The Riders fell for the first time in the 2023/24 Women’s British Basketball League season, taking a 77-61 defeat to the back-to-back quadruple-winning London Lions. 

The Riders played the Lions the toughest of all of their opponents early in the season in a spirited performance, but London’s firepower proved too much for Leicester from the offset. 

Rayven Peeples put in an impressive performance in the capital for the Riders, leading the game with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Peeples grabbed seven boards on the offensive glass to buy the Riders second chances throughout. 

She ranks third in the League in rebounds per game, putting herself among Britain’s best on the boards. 

It’s been a successful start to the season for the Riders through five games, as they’ve put themselves in the mix at the top of the table with a 4-1 record. Led by Peeples, they rank top of the offensive rebounding and blocks per game charts, their force in the interior leading to four straight wins to start the season. 

They’ll want to get straight back to winning ways against Essex to maintain the momentum built from the opening tip-off. 

Rebels looking competitive

 10-12 record left the Rebels sixth in the standings last season, facing the Riders in the first round of the playoffs. They fell in a close one, the Riders edging the tie 83-80 in an overtime thriller, with Essex coming close to an upset win. 

They’ve seen a plethora of players join the team in the offseason, most notably American guard Kat Tudor who leads the Rebels’ scoring on the season with 20.3 points per game. 

The roster changes have led them to a .500 start to the season, sitting with a 2-2 record through four games. Their losses this season have come at the hands of the undefeated London Lions and Caledonia Gladiators in a tough schedule to strat the season. 

Last time out, they played the Gladiators tough in a 69-61 road defeat. It was a five-point game with under a minute remaining, with the hosts finding enough late to get over the line, but the Rebels showed they can compete with the elite teams in the league on any given night. 

They’ll need the same level of play in this one to avoid falling below .500. 

Key matchup 

A battle between Americans in the backcourt awaits in this one, as two of the top four scorers in the Women’s British Basketball League go face to face in Essex.

For Essex, Kat Tudor has hit the ground running to lead the Rebels early in the season. The California native signed from  Australian NBL1 West side Mandura Magic, where she averaged 15.6 points per game last season, ranking second on her team. 

Tudor’s four-year college career at Oregon State University saw her put up 8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds, shooting at over 40% from three. She finished third in program history in career 3-pointers and fourth in career 3-point percentage. 

The 25-year-old’s elite three-point shooting has carried over to the South East. Tudor his hitting her triples at a 45.9% rate, the best of anyone who has taken over 20. 

Faced with the task of slowing her down is Taylor O’Brien, who has had a similarly impressive start to her first season in British Basketball. 

She leads the Riders with 19.6 points per game, putting up 20 points on three occasions through five games. 

O’Brien signed from Flordia State, having averaged 6.7 points for the Seminoles last season. 

She spent four years prior at Bucknell University, leading the team in scoring for two straight seasons and earning a place on the All-Patriot League First team for 2021 and 2022. The Pennsylvania native averaged 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds in her final season with the Bison. 

O’Brien also owns Bucknell’s record in the outdoor high jump and was named to the second Team All-Patriot League with a runner-up finish in the 2019 Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

She’ll look to counteract Tudor’s shooting with her speed and athleticism in this battle in the backcourt.