Women's College Basketball
Rider University 72, Siena College 52
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
LAWRENCEVILLE--The Rider University women's basketball team defeated Siena College 72-52 Friday night in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game in Alumni Gymnasium. The win marked Rider's first-ever season sweep of the Saints.
Rider (15-13, 10-7 MAAC) opened the final home stand of the season with a win, their fourth win in the last five games to move into fourth place in the MAAC with one game remaining. The Broncs had three players in double-figures en route to the 20-point win, led by junior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)) who finished with 21 points, two off her career-high.
"Early in the year, we felt we had a winning team," said head coach Lynn Milligan. "We worked on doing things the right way and we've been able to do that."
"The biggest change has been the team chemistry," said McKenzie. "We are all buying into the system and we have a better understanding of what we are supposed to do and what is expected."
McKenzie finished with 11 rebounds for her 24th career 'double-double' and 12th of the season.
The Broncs opened the game on a 12-3 run, six points by senior Sironda Chambers (Wilmington, Del.). Chambers finished with 14 points, two assists and two steals.
"We are playing well, together as a team," said Chambers. "We all have the same goals and that is our passion right now, to end the season strong and do well in the conference tournament."
The Bronc defense held Siena to one of 16 shooting over the first 10 minutes to take the early lead.
"The defense tonight was outstanding," Milligan said. "We fouled way too much (leading to 23 of the 52 points) but defensively, and on the glass, that effort has been the key for us all year and was again tonight."
"Our defense keys the offense," said Chambers. "We scored 72 because we only allowed 52. Our goal is to hold a team to around 50 points. Siena is a good team and to hold them to 52 like we did took a lot of effort, starting on the defensive end of the floor. Our offense is really only as strong as our defensive effort because that keys the transition."
Rider used an 11-5 run over the final 3:12 of the first half, four points by McKenzie, to take a 33-23 lead into the intermission.
Leading 37-27, Rider used a 10-3 run, nine points by sophomore Emily Fazzini (Wayne, Pa./Archbishop Carroll), to take a 47-30 lead with 11:49 remaining in the game. Fazzini finished with 14 points, making four three-pointers.
A steal and layup by senior Dior Brown (Upper Darby, Pa./Upper Darby) gave Rider a 68-43 lead with 5:50 remaining, the largest lead of the game. D. Brown finished with nine points and three steals in 11 minutes off the bench.
"Dior was fantastic," Milligan said. "Our role players are a huge part of our success. Dior is giving us everything she has in practice every day and on the court as well. I'm really happy for her."
Rider held Siena without a field goal for the final 4:47 of the game.
"Our guard play was solid tonight," Milligan said. "They were involved, especially in the second half."
Rider had 17 assists on 24 made field goals and caused 23 Saint turnovers, leading to 23 points for the Broncs.
"The defense keyed the transition game and the offense," Milligan said. "That's why the rebounding is so critical for this team; that starts the whole process."
Eight players had at least one steal and Rider had 15 steals in the game, one off a season-high.
Also for the Broncs, senior Caitlin Bopp (Baltimore, Md./Inst. of Notre Dame) had eight points and nine rebounds, six on the offensive glass, before fouling out. Bopp now has 897 career rebounds, second best all-time at Rider.
Siena senior Lily Grenci hit two free throws with 1:34 remaining in the first half to become the 25th player in Siena history to score 1,000 points for her career. She finished with a 'double-double', 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Rider out-shot the Saints 38 percent (24-63) to 23 percent (13-56).
With the win, Rider won its 10th MAAC game, which at least ties the 10-8 conference mark set in 1999-2000.
Rider defeated Siena 73-61 February 15 in Loudonville, New York.
The Broncs entered the season with 10 MAAC season sweeps and Rider has now swept five of the nine series this season, with multiple wins over Fairfield, Loyola Maryland, Manhattan, Saint Peter's and now Siena.
Siena has won 29 of the 35 games in the series but Rider has won two straight over the Saints.
The Broncs have won eight of 11 games.
This is the most wins in a season for Rider since the Broncs went 16-12 during the 1994-95 season. The Broncs last finished with at least a .500 record during the 1999-2000 season when Rider was 14-14.
"This team trusts one another and they believe in each other," Milligan said. "They work hard for each other every day. When you do that, more than likely, you will see good results. Our seniors and the upperclassmen, they are a veteran group and they get it. They knew early in the season that we weren't doing some of the things that we needed to and they stepped up and responded."
Rider hosts the Gaels of Iona on Sunday in the regular season finale at 2pm. The Broncs' four graduating seniors, Chambers, D. Brown, Bopp and graduate student Carleigh Brown (Philadelphia, Pa./Nazareth Academy) will be honored in a pregame ceremony. Iona defeated Manhattan on Thursday evening 71-64 and the Gaels are 17-11, 12-5 in the MAAC, good for second place.
Iona defeated Rider earlier this season in New Rochelle, in a game seen on ESPN3.
"This senior group is special," said Chambers. "This feels good. The passion for us to win and to turn the program around is a big deal for us and something we take great pride in."