Women's College Basketball
Rider University 60 Manhattan College 57
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
LAWRENCEVILLE--The Rider University women's basketball team won its third straight game with a come from behind 60-57 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory over Manhattan College Thursday evening in Alumni Gymnasium.
Trailing 55-50 with 4:34 left in the game, Rider rallied with an 8-0 run to take a 58-55 lead, five points by freshman Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) and three points from graduate student Carleigh Brown (Philadelphia, Pa./Nazareth Academy) with 1:24 left in the contest. Johnson finished with 11 points and C. Brown had six points, eight rebounds, four steals and two assists in 31 minutes after being pressed into the starting lineup due to the illness of senior Caitlin Bopp (Baltimore, Md./Inst. of Notre Dame).
"Carleigh won the game for us tonight," said head coach Lynn Milligan about her 109-game veteran. "She has been doing this for four seasons. She isn't the fastest player; she is undersized but she finds a way because she has heart. For her to step in with Caitlin out was huge. Her body isn't made to grind out 31 minutes like she did tonight. She gave everything she had."
Rider (10-10, 5-4 MAAC) was also led by sophomore Emily Fazzini (Wayne, Pa./Archbishop Carroll.) who had 12 points, with junior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)) adding a 'double-double' of 11 points and a career-high tying 16 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.
"Every now and then, there are games you have to grind out," said Milligan. "A month ago, we don't win this game. The growth we've made over the last month allowed us to win the game."
The MAAC Player of the Week for all games last week and a Second Team Preseason All-MAAC honoree, McKenzie recorded her 21st career 'double-double' and ninth of the season.
Trailing by five with 4:34 left, Johnson made a three-pointer to cut the Jasper lead to two and C. Brown grabbed her fourth and final offensive rebound and converted a three-point play to put Rider in the lead 56-55, the 14th and final lead change of the contest with 2:36 left.
C. Brown then took a charge on the next possession, causing the next to last of Manhattan's 22 turnovers in the game.
"You have to show up and play hard," C. Brown said. "That's what we focus on. I needed to do what my team needed me to do and that's get some stops, get rebounds and make good passes. With the minutes I'm given, I do the best I can to help the team, no matter the situation. I always play hard, that's what I do. Our team follows by example and if I show that 'blue-collar' effort, they will do it as well."
Johnson converted two free throws as the Broncs led 58-55 with 1:24 remaining.
After a Jasper jumper by Monica Roeder with 1:06 left, McKenzie made two free throws with 37 seconds remaining for the final score. McKenzie entered the game shooting 81.8 percent from the free throw line but was one for five from the charity stripe on the evening before hitting the two free throws.
After the Jaspers missed two jumpers on the next offensive posession, McKenzie missed two free throws with 14 seconds left to setup the final sequence.
Manhattan had a final chance to tie the game after a time out with 8.6 seconds remaining but the Bronc defense held strong as Manhattan (5-15, 2-7 MAAC) could not get a final shot off.
Roeder finished with a game-high 23 points.
"We work on those special situations all the time," Milligan said. "We knew a two-pointer wouldn't hurt us so we switched the defense and pushed them out toward half court and they couldn't get the shot off."
Rider went the final 2:36 without a field goal but held the Jaspers without a field goal for the final 1:06 to preserve the win.
Trailing 46-42, Manhattan went on an 11-2 run as the Jaspers took a 53-48 lead with 5:58 remaining in the game.
Manhattan opened the game with an early 12-7 lead, five minutes into the game, on the strength of seven points by Allison Skrec. Skrec finished with 17 points.
Rider used a 5-0 run, three points by Johnson to tie the game 12-12 with 13:46 left in the opening half.
Another Johnson three-pointer and a free throw by C. Brown put Rider in the lead 21-18 halfway through the opening period. Johnson had three of Rider's eight three-pointers in the contest.
Tied at 25-25, Rider used a 5-0 run, with three Bronc players hitting the scoring column as Rider led 30-25, 2:39 before intermission.
Manhattan hit a three-pointer at the buzzer, cutting the Bronc lead to 33-32 at the break.
Trailing 38-36, Rider used an 8-0 run, five points by freshman Manon Pellet (Marseille, France) as the Broncs opened up their largest lead of the game, 44-38 with 15:07 left in the second half. Pellet tied a career-high with eight points.
Manhattan scored 15 of the next 21 points to take a 53-48 lead with 5:58 left in the game. The Jaspers held Rider to one field goal over a span of 8:16 during the run.
"The second half, we didn't click offensively," Milligan said. "The looks that we got in the first half, weren't there in the final 20 minutes. So we had to do it with defense until we figured it out. We finished the game with three big stops."
Rider entered the game 57th nationally, shooting 73 percent from the free throw line but shot only 16-27 (59 percent) from the charity stripe in the game.
Rider held a 43-39 rebounding advantage, 17-8 on the offensive glass which led to a 16-2 advantage in second chance points. The Broncs won despite being out-shot 40 percent (22-55) to 30 percent (18-60).
Rider swept the season series from the Jaspers, having won in Riverdale, New York, 48-41 on January 6.
Rider's last MAAC series sweep came against Niagara University, during the 2010-11 season.
In 16 seasons in the MAAC, Rider has completed 137 two-game regular season series and have completed a series sweep only 11 times. Three of the sweeps have come against Manhattan (1999-2000, 2003-04 and 2012-13).
This is Rider's 10th win in 36 tries against Manhattan.
12 of Rider's 20 games have been decided by seven or less points this season with the Broncs recording five wins.
This was Rider's third MAAC win in a row. The last time the Broncs won three conference games in a row was January 11-18, 2009 when Rider defeated Manhattan, Loyola University and Iona College.
This was Rider's second home conference win in a row. The last time the Broncs won two conference games in a row in Alumni Gym was February 19-21, 2003 when Rider defeated Marist College and Iona.
Rider hosts Niagara on Saturday at 2pm. The Purple Eagles defeated Rider 62-58 on January 18 at the Taps' Gallagher Center. The Purple Eagles (4-5 MAAC) lost 71-68 in overtime at Loyola Thursday evening.
"We are going to enjoy this game but then it's on to the next one Saturday," C. Brown added.