Women's College Basketball
Rider University 62, Stony Brook University 50
STONY BROOK, N.Y.--Led by 18 points from senior Sironda Chambers (Wilmington, Del./Hodgson Vo-Tech.) and 16 points from junior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)), the Rider University women's basketball team opened the 2012-13 season with a non-conference win at Stony Brook University Friday evening.
"To play our first game on the road, trail early and come back, this was a good start for us," said head coach Lynn Milligan, in her sixth season at Rider. "We had to make some adjustments at the half and we were able to do that. We had some players step up and make some clutch shots."
Chambers added six rebounds, six assists and a steal in 33 minutes of play with McKenzie, a preseason All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Second Team selection, just missing a 'double-double', finishing with nine rebounds.
"That's my game," Chambers said. "I try to do a little bit of everything and take what the defense gives me."
"The defensive effort keyed the offense," Milligan said. "That is a huge key for us. The defensive effort has to set up the offense."
"We did well tonight," said Chambers. "We were a little flat in the opening half and then picked up our defensive intensity. We communicated better on defense in the second half and once we caused a turnover and got the steal, we pushed the ball up the floor in transition."
Rider (1-0) saw the Seawolves cut the Bronc lead to three (29-26) with 17:49 left in the game. The Broncs responded by scoring 14 of the next 19 points, six points by Chambers and a three-pointer each by McKenzie and sophomore Kornelija Valiuskyte (Siauliai, Lithuania) as Rider opened up a 12-point lead, 43-31 with 9:28 left in the second half. Valiuskyte finished with six points and two assists in 24 minutes of action.
"We hit some open threes," Milligan said. "That opened things up for us. Stony Brook was doing a nice job early on backing the paint and our outside shooting pulled their defense out of the lane."
Leading by 11, Rider used a 5-0 run, all five points by McKenzie as the Broncs opened up their largest lead of the contest, 56-40 with 4:28 left in the game. McKenzie finished three for three from three-point range and added three assists and a block in 36 minutes.
"We wanted MyNeshia to expand her game over the summer," Milligan said. "She is a legitimate three-point threat. Stony Brook closed off the lane to her and she was able to step back and start hitting threes. That was huge."
Trailing 8-3, Rider went on a 10-1 run, five points each by senior Dior Brown (Upper Darby, Pa./Upper Darby) and Chambers as the Broncs took a 13-9 lead with 11:06 left in the opening half. D. Brown finished with eight points, three rebounds and two assists, playing 16 minutes off the bench.
"Sironda is a special player," Milligan said. "She is like a quiet assassin. "You don't hear her a lot and then all of a sudden, she turns the game around and she did that tonight. She made shots, stole the ball, passed the ball, she is really fun to watch. She was really the spark that got us going in the second half."
A three-pointer by freshman Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) put Rider ahead by five, 16-11 with 10:38 remaining in the first period. Johnson had five points and two rebounds (both offensive) in her first collegiate game.
"Mikal and Taylor (Wentzel) both played well," Milligan said. "They are not afraid of big situations and they both were able to log a lot of minutes in their first game. They both worked hard and they give us a bright future."
After the Seawolves cut the Bronc lead to 16-15, Valiuskyte drilled a three-pointer, as Rider extended the lead back to four and McKenzie hit a three-pointer with exactly five minutes left in the opening half as Rider led 23-18. The Broncs made seven three-pointers in the game and held Stony Brook to 0-9 shooting from long range.
Rider led 27-23 at the half.
The Broncs out-shot Stony Brook 36 percent (21-58) to 34 percent (18-52) and Rider held a 41-39 rebounding advantage, including 15-9 on the offensive glass.
"We did a better job rebounding in the second half," Milligan said. "That was something we discussed at the break, that we were being out-muscled a little bit. We also picked up our defensive intensity in the final 20 minutes."
This is the second season in a row that Rider has opened with a win, having defeated Lafayette to begin the 2011-12 campaign.
Rider leads the all-time series against Stony Brook 3-1. The Broncs defeated the Seawolves 53-41 in Lawrenceville last season.
Rider hosts the New Jersey Institute of Technology in the home opener on Monday in Alumni Gymnasium at 7pm.
"NJIT is a good ball club," Milligan said. "We are going to work hard in practice on boxing out and continue to improve on defense. It is the home opener and we want to show our fans the things we've been working on the last six months. We want to protect the home court."