Women's College Basketball
Canisius College 51 Rider University 50
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
LAWRENCEVILLE--Junior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)) finished one off a career-high with 22 points and added 13 rebounds for her 18th 'double-double' but it wasn't enough as the Rider University women's basketball team lost 51-50 to Canisius College in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game Thursday afternoon.
Trailing by one, Rider (6-8, 1-2 MAAC) had a chance to win the game on the final possession with the shot blocked at the buzzer.
"Caitlin (Bopp) made a hustle play at the end and it didn't fall," said head coach Lynn Milligan. "It should not have come down to the last play."
"Somehow the ball got to me," Bopp said about the final play of the game. "I just turned and tried to get a shot off. My arm may have gotten hit but I should have made a better shot."
"The play at the end got a little bottled up," McKenzie said about the final 16 seconds. "If Sironda (Chambers) missed, I was ready for a rebound and Caitlin was a treat to make a play as well. We just didn't execute the play. We are in the conference season and we have to all be more mentally prepared."
For the second game in a row, Rider leading scorer Sironda Chambers was held in check, scoring only four points. Chambers, a senior from Wilmington, Delaware, entered the game averaging 14.5 points per game. Chambers did pull down five rebounds, four on the offensive glass.
With Rider leading 50-49, Jamie Ruttle made two free throws with 16 seconds left to give the Golden Griffins a 51-50 lead, the 13th and final lead change of the contest. Ruttle was four for four from the free throw line and finished with seven points and three rebounds to go along with two blocks, including a block on the final play of the game.
"We had a foul to give at the end but wanted to use it in the front court," Milligan said about the last Canisius possession. "We definitely didn't want to put them on the free throw line."
Canisius was 10 for 12 from the foul line in the game.
Trailing 36-28, Canisius (5-9, 2-1 MAAC) went on a 12-0 run, four points by Allison Braun as the Golden Griffins took a 40-36 lead with 11:15 left in the game. Braun finished with eight points and added five rebounds to go along with five steals in 26 minutes off the bench.
Trailing 46-40, Rider went ahead 50-49 with 2:49 left on the strength of a 10-3 run, including two three-point plays by McKenzie. McKenzie made 10 of 12 free throws and Rider was 18 for 22 from the free throw line in the game.
Rider held Canisius without a field goal and to only two points for the final 4:59 of the game but the Broncs did not score a point over the final 2:49 of the contest.
The opening part of the game was a close battle with Canisius holding an early 19-17 lead with 8:04 left in the first half. Rider rallied with a 9-2 run, four points by McKenzie as the Broncs went ahead 26-19 with 3:57 left in the opening half.
Rider led 28-24 at intermission.
The teams combined for 47 turnovers, 24 by Rider.
The Broncs had 13 steals, led by four each from McKenzie and senior Caitlin Bopp (Baltimore, Md./Inst. of Notre Dame). Bopp finished with two points and five rebounds to go along with two blocks.
"Our defense has been solid," Milligan said. "We've given up 41 (at Manhattan) and only 51 today. We need to do a better job and make better decisions on the offense end."
McKenzie is averaging 18.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in conference play this season and she tied her MAAC career-high with 22 points, set at Niagara in triple overtime on February 18, 2011.
"Coach Milligan has been harping that conference play is 'go time' for me and that's what I've been trying to do," McKenzie said. "Conference play is harder, everyone knows everyone and I know my team needs me to step up. These games count."
Canisius was led by Ashley Durham with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Also for the Broncs, freshman Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) had eight points, all in the opening half.
Canisius out-shot Rider 35 percent (18-52) to 29 percent (15-52). The Broncs out-rebounded the Golden Griffins 40-34, including 17-11 on the offensive glass.
The teams meet again in 10 days in Buffalo, New York on January 20.
Canisius has won four straight over Rider and the Golden Griffins lead the all-time series 27-7.
This is Rider's second one-point loss of the season (62-61 overtime loss at Central Connecticut). Rider is now 4-7 in one-point games under Milligan, losing four straight and the Broncs are 22-23 since 1977-78 in one-point decisions.
Eight of Rider's 14 games this season have been decided by seven points or less with the Broncs holding a 3-5 record in those situations. "Our issue isn't the close games or the last few minutes of games," Milligan said. "It is digging ourselves holes by not executing on the offensive end. Today we had a little lull in the first half and one in the second half. Because we work hard and never give up, that is making the games close. But we shouldn't constantly be battling from behind."
Rider dropped to 1-5 at home this season.
"It is very disappointing that we haven't been able to win at home," Milligan said.
"I'm tired of losing at home," Bopp added. "We dug ourselves a deep hole and fought back but we should not have put ourselves in that situation to have to battle back."
The teams combined for 30 fouls, 18 by Canisius. "Both teams played physical," said Milligan. "When that happens, we need to step up and be just a little tougher and we didn't do that today."
The game was Rider's annual participation in the NCAA Kid's Day promotion with over 800 fans attending the special noon start. In conjunction with the NCAA, schools from around the country host elementary and middle school age children on the day of a game, exposing them to a day of activities and clinics on campus, culminating in attendance at a women's basketball game.
Four out of Rider's next five games are on the road, beginning with a trip to Loyola Maryland on Sunday for a 4pm MAAC Game. Rider has already exceeded its win total from last season (five) away from Alumni Gym.
"I hope we continue our strong play on the road," Milligan said. "It's a tough stretch, playing on the road on Sunday and then the Buffalo trip with Niagara and Canisius again. But we will be ready for the challenge. We need to find our edge and put ourselves in better situations."