Women's College Basketball
Rider University 55, Fairfield University 44
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
LAWRENCEVILLE--Junior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield-Delco) compiled18 points and five rebounds to lead Rider to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference win over Fairfield Thursday night.
The win moves Rider into third place in the MAAC and with the victory Rider (11-11, 6-5 MAAC) sweeps the season series with Fairfield (13-9, 7-4 MAAC). Rider defeated Fairfield 69-57 January 27. In that game McKenzie compiled 19 points and 12 rebounds
"We've never swept Fairfield before and I thought that this was a special win for our players tonight," said head coach Lynn Milligan. "To accomplish something no other Rider team has accomplished is exceptional."
Senior Sironda Chambers (Wilmington, Del.) scored Rider's final seven points of the game, four from the foul line, and finished with 16 points and four rebounds after scoring only four points in the opening half.
"Sironda needs to be that confident, talented player for the team," said Milligan. "She's been up and down lately, but tonight she wanted the ball in her hands and that's the kind of Sironda we need in our games. A senior guard in February has to take those gutsy shots. That's what they have to do."
"I had to let the first half go," Chambers said. "You have to have a short memory in order to keep playing. We started playing one on one ball and that got us in a little trouble, but once we started playing together it started becoming more like the way we know how to play."
Fairfield came into the game having won six of the last seven meetings with Rider. It was just the fifth time in 35 meetings that Rider defeated the Stags.
Rider used a 19-2 run, six points by McKenzie and five points by Chambers, to take a 48-39 lead with 2:24 remaining.
With the score tied at 27, Fairfield went on a 10-0 run, four points each by Felicia DaCruz and Brittany MacFarlane, to take a 37-27 lead mid-way through the second half. DaCruz finished with 10 points and MacFarlane finished with six points and seven rebounds.
A three-point play by McKenzie tied the score at 23-23 four minutes into the second half.
Fairfield used a 17-3 run, six points by Katelyn Linney, to take a 21-14 lead, and the Stags led 21-16 at the half. Linney finished with six points.
"We challenged them at half time," Milligan said. "I reminded them that first half was not Rider basketball. We needed to go out there and play the final 20 minutes the way we know how to play and we did that."
Rider jumped out to a 9-2 lead, five points by McKenzie.
"We started off the game strong, but we stalled the rest of the first half," Milligan said.
Rider senior Caitlin Bopp (Baltimore, Md./Inst. of Notre Dame) added 10 points and seven rebounds, along with three blocked shots.
"Bopp did terrific," Milligan said. "I thought we got her some good touches. I think she was 5 for 9 and she could've been 9 for 9. I think we got her good touches and she was confident on the block tonight."
"In the first half we were playing very individualized," said Bopp. "We realized that we needed to play more team basketball in the second half. I'm always confident in Sironda's shooting so I'm confident in giving her the ball and she knocked down the shots when we needed them."
Bopp now has 838 career rebounds, 10 rebounds behind Kelly Eckardt for second place all-time at Rider.
Fairfield out-rebounded Rider 41-30, but shot just 30 percent from the field, compared to 43.1 percent for Rider.
This is the fourth time this season and the 17th time all-time under Milligan that Rider has held an opponent under 50 points.
"That has been our motto throughout the year to start our offense through our defense," Milligan added. "In the first half I felt like we were trying to start our defense through our offense and that's not how we play.
Rider forced 16 Stag turnovers and the Broncs only committed 11 in the contest. The Broncs had 20-5 advantage in points off of turnovers.
Fairfield junior forwards Katie Cizynski finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Rider travels to Iona for an ESPN3 game Saturday at 4pm.
"The MAAC is so good and talented that if you don't bring it every day you're going to get beat," Milligan added. "You bring it, you have a chance and that's where we are. You're never tested more than when you go to Iona, but we can't forget what we did that brought us to this point."
"We're pretty confident, but we have to take it one game at a time," Chambers added. "Iona is one of our biggest rivals and we have to be ready for that, but it's one game at a time."