Women's College Basketball
Rider University 69 Fairfield University 57
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
FAIRFIELD, Conn.--Led by a 19 point, 12 rebound 'double-double' from junior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)), the Rider University women's basketball team upset second place Fairfield University 69-57 on Sunday afternoon in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at Alumni Hall in Connecticut.
The 'double-double' was McKenzie's eighth of the season and 20th of her career and she added two steals, an assist and a block while playing all 40 minutes.
"The game went well," McKenzie said. "We started off a little slow and then turned it up defensively. We had a good game plan and followed it. Our defense was key today. I got into a flow early and played with high intensity. Coach Milligan keeps telling me to play consistent and that's what I've been trying to do. The team flows well when I have high energy so that's what I tried to do."
McKenzie's 674 rebounds are now sixth best all-time at Rider.
Leading 39-33 with 17:05 left in the game, Rider (9-10, 4-4 MAAC) went on a 6-0 run, four points by McKenzie, doubling the Bronc lead to 12 with 14:13 left in the game.
After Fairfield (12-7, 6-2 MAAC) cut the Bronc lead to nine, Rider responded with an 8-0 run, three points each by freshman Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) and senior Sironda Chambers (Wilmington, Del.) as the Broncs led 55-39 with 10:34 left in the game. Johnson finished with 11 points, shooting four for six from the field and Chambers had seven points and four assists.
The Stags cut the Rider lead to 63-57 with 1:53 left on the strength of an 18-8 run but could get no closer as the Broncs used two McKenzie steals in the final 1:16 to end the game on a 6-0 run for the final score.
"Those two steals at the end of the game were HUGE," head coach Lynn Milligan said. "Overall we played the game at a nice pace. Fairfield likes to slow it down and grind out possessions and we did a good job of playing more of a style that we like. Our defense paced the offense. Maintaining the lead and finishing the game strong was important for the maturity of the team. We had a lull for about eight minutes but our defensive effort carried us through."
The Stags opened the game with six straight points before McKenzie made a jumper to bring Rider to within four points 1:56 into the contest.
"Fairfield got to us early for those quick six points," Milligan said. "We called time out and reminded them what the game plan was and from that point on, we executed it flawlessly. This was a terrific defensive effort."
A three-pointer by sophomore Emily Fazzini (Wayne, Pa./Archbishop Carroll) and two free throws by graduate student Carleigh Brown (Philadelphia, Pa./Nazareth Academy) made up a 5-0 run to bring the Broncs to within 8-7 with 14:35 left in the opening half. Fazzini finished with six points and C. Brown had eight points and three rebounds in only 11 minutes off the bench.
"Our depth is an advantage for us," Milligan said. "Mikal made some nice plays, Sironda hits a huge three at the end; we aren't built around just one player and as a team, we do a nice job of understanding each other's strengths and they try to put each other positions to be successful on the court. They play off one another and share the ball."
Two free throws by McKenzie tied the score at 9-9 with 12:43 left in the first half.
Rider entered the game 55th nationally in free throw percentage and the Broncs went 14-20 (70 percent) from the line in the game.
Rider used a 6-2 run, with three Broncs hitting the scoring column, to take its first lead of the game, 15-11 with 10:26 left in the opening period.
Fairfield responded with a 7-1 run before a McKenzie jumper tied the game 18-18 with 7:48 left in the first half. The game featured five ties, all in the opening half.
Trailing 23-20, Rider scored five of the next six points, three points by Johnson as the Broncs retook the lead 25-24 with 3:58 left in period one. The game had seven lead changes, all in the first 20 minutes of the game.
A three-point play by McKenzie and a jumper by C. Brown gave Rider a 32-28 lead with 1:20 left before intermission and the Broncs led 34-31 at the half.
Also for the Broncs, senior Caitlin Bopp (Baltimore, Md./Inst. of Notre Dame) had 10 points on five for seven shooting and she added six rebounds (three offensive), a block, a steal and an assist, despite being limited to 22 minutes of play due to foul trouble.
Rider out-rebounded the Stags 31-23.
Both teams shot well from the field with the Stags out-shooting the Broncs 55 percent to 50 percent.
This was only the fourth win for Rider in 34 tries against the Stags and Fairfield had won six in a row in the series including both games during the 2011-12 season. Rider last defeated the Stags on February 23, 2009, also in Alumni Hall by a 51-46 score.
The teams meet again in Lawrenceville on February 7 at 5pm.
Fairfield had its five-game winning streak snapped. The only loss in MAAC play for the Stags this season was to defending conference champion Marist College. Fairfield advanced to the MAAC championship game and the WNIT last season, compiling a 24-9 record.
This was Rider's seventh road win of the season. The Broncs entered the game 10th best in the nation in road wins.
"We obviously spend a lot of time together on the road," Milligan said. "There are less distractions and I really think the kids enjoy each other's company. That seems to carry over on the court."
Rider has won two straight. The Broncs last won two MAAC games in a row on January 30 and February 1, 2009 when Rider won on the road at Niagara University and at Canisius College.
This was Rider's fourth conference win of the season after going 3-15 in MAAC play in 2011-12.
The Broncs host Manhattan College to open a three-game home stand on Thursday evening in a 7pm MAAC game. The Jaspers lost to Saint Peter's as the Peacocks won for the first time this season Sunday afternoon in Riverdale, New York.