Women's College Basketball
Rider University 56, Loyola University Maryland 41
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
LAWRENCEVILLE--In a game seen on ESPN3, the Rider University women's basketball team won its second game in a row, defeating Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival Loyola University Maryland 56-41 before almost 1,300 fans on National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
"We played strong, solid defense and that's why we won," said head coach Lynn Milligan. "It was important that we never gave up the lead."
Rider (13-12, 8-6 MAAC) was led by junior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)) who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds (six offensive) for her 22nd career 'double-double' and 10th of the season. McKenzie now has 916 points in her Rider career and her 733 rebounds are fifth highest all-time at Rider.
Leading 38-36 with 6:30 left in the game, Rider held Loyola without a field goal for the final 4:42 of the contest and the Broncs ended the game on an 18-5 run, seven points each by sophomore Emily Fazzini (Wayne, Pa./Archbishop Carroll) and McKenzie. Fazzini made a clutch three-pointer with 4:20 left and finished with 15 points and four rebounds, all on the offensive glass and added two assists and two steals in 32 minutes.
"Every game, we seem to have different players step up and make big plays," Milligan said. "That's big for us to not have players afraid to take a big shot. Emily hit for seven points in a row when we needed someone to step up. She is a tough kid."
"In that situation, that's a confidence shot," Fazzini said. "Loyola gave me some room and I got the shot off. I practice that every day."
"Emily's three-pointer was big," said senior Caitlin Bopp. "I have every confidence in her that she will make that shot and I have no worries kicking the ball back out to her."
Rider out-rebounded the 'Hounds 48-33, 23-7 on the offensive glass.
Trailing by 17 (36-19), five minutes into the second half, Loyola (10-15, 5-9 MAAC) went on a 17-2 run, five points by Nai Brown as the 'Hounds got to within two points (38-36) with 6:30 remaining in the game. Loyola held Rider to one field goal during a span of 10:59 in the second half. N. Brown finished with eight points.
"We didn't get too nervous when the game got closer," Bopp said. "We've been in that position so many times that we knew we just had to dig deep and work harder."
"We tend to make things close," Fazzini said. "We've been really good under pressure situations and while we don't like to be in them, we are comfortable. We stayed composed and got some good defensive stops."
Rider opened the game on a 13-0 run, eight points by senior Sironda Chambers (Wilmington, Del.) and the Bronc defense held the 'Hounds without a point for the first 6:05 of the game.
Chambers finished with 10 points, two rebounds and a steal in 26 minutes.
"We came ready to play," Fazzini said about the fast start. "It was a big game and a big day."
"We worked very hard after the 30-point loss at Iona to start games better," Milligan said. "We started really well in the win at Siena on Friday night and we did that again today. That is such an important thing for us to do. We changed some of the warm up before the game and some things in practice and you saw a positive result of that this weekend."
Leading 16-7, Rider scored six of the next eight points, two each by McKenzie, Chambers and senior Caitlin Bopp (Baltimore, Md./Inst. of Notre Dame) as the Broncs expanded their lead to 22-9, 12:23 into the game.
Bopp finished with eight points and 15 rebounds (seven offensive) to go along with two assists, two blocks and a steal in 35 minutes. With her 866 rebounds, Bopp is second all-time on Rider's career rebounding list, trailing only Bronc Hall of Famer Jessica Beck who pulled down 1,023 boards from 1993-96.
"I tried to play strong defense by keeping my hands up and being smart," said Bopp. "Whenever I play Loyola, it is hard to get touches inside because they are always double-teaming me so I tried to step up on defense to help the team. The put-back at the end (with 2:40 left), those are the touches that I'm going to get."
Bopp entered the game with four career 'double-doubles' against Loyola and came within two points of her fifth.
Loyola cut the Bronc lead to nine before Rider held the 'Hounds without a point for the final 4:46 of the opening half and Rider ended the first period on a 5-0 run, three points by McKenzie as the Broncs went into intermission leading 31-17.
Both teams struggled from the field with Loyola out-shooting Rider 28 percent (12-43) to 27 percent (17-64).
Loyola was led by Katie Sheahin who had 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals with Nneka Offodile adding 10 points, six rebounds and two steals.
Led by nine free throws from McKenzie (out of 10 attempts), Rider was 17-19 from the charity stripe in the game.
Rallying from a 16-point deficit with 5:50 remaining in regulation to force overtime, Rider defeated Loyola 81-74 on January 13 in Baltimore, Maryland and today's win over the 'Hounds marks the first MAAC season series sweep.
"These are the games we play against Loyola," Milligan said. "Down there, they are up big and we came back and today, we were up big and they came back. Loyola was able to take us out of our flow in the second half and that is something we have to work on."
Rider has won 11 of 41 games all-time against the Greyhounds.
The 41 points allowed ties a season-best with the Broncs also allowing 41 points at Manhattan on January 6 in a seven-point win. This is the fifth time this season and 18th time under head coach Milligan that Rider has held an opponent below 50 points.
This was Loyola's last conference visit to Alumni Gym as the 'Hounds are moving to the Patriot League for the 2013-14 season.
With Siena College defeating Niagara University on Sunday, Rider moves into sole possession of fourth place in the MAAC at 8-6. With four conference games remaining, the eight wins represent the most in six seasons under Milligan and are Rider's second highest win total in 16 seasons in the conference. The Broncs went 10-8, finishing fourth during the 1999-2000 season.
"The eight conference wins feel great," Bopp said about being one of the senior leaders who have helped spark the resurgence of the program. "We are working extra time in the gym and everything is finally paying off. We really just focus on one game at a time."
Today was Rider's annual celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Prior to the game, Rider hosted an all-sport clinic for kids age 5-18 with all of Rider's varsity sports participating.
Rider travels to defending conference champion Marist College on February 22 at 7pm.