Women’s College Basketball
Lafayette College 67, Rider University 62
EASTON, PA— Maybe a leopard can change its spots.
Despite losing four of the last five meetings with Rider, the Lafayette Leopards came away victorious this time.
Senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield-Delco) compiled a career-high 24 points, including the 1,000th of her career, and grabbed 12 rebounds, but it was not enough, as the Broncs dropped the 2013-14 season opener at Lafayette Friday night.
Rider (0-1) trailed 59-44 before going on an 18-4 run, seven points each by McKenzie and junior Emily Fazzini (Wayne, Pa./Archbishop Carroll), to cut the lead to 63-62 with 1:22 left to play, but that was as close as the Broncs could get.
“We’re never going to quit and die,” Rider head coach Lynn Milligan said of the late comeback. “We came back and got within a basket, I’m just disappointed we put ourselves in that situation.”
Fazzini finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Junior Marritta Gillcrease (Pittsburgh, Pa./Perry Traditional Academy) added five points and a career-high eight rebounds.
Rider sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) added 10 points and four rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench.
McKenzie made a jumper with 15:40 left in the first half to give Rider an 8-6 lead and to give her 1,001 career points. McKenzie became the 19th member of Rider’s 1,000 point club and now has 1,019. She is also fifth in career rebounds with 799.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her development,” Milligan said of McKenzie. “I know what I’m going to get from her every game.”
Lafayette out-scored Rider 12-2 to start the second half, eight points by Maddle Peabody, to take a 46-30 lead with 16:49 left to play. Peabody finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
“This was our first road test,” Milligan said. “We need to do a better job. We’ll learn from this.”
Lafayette (1-0) was led by 6’3” junior forward Emily Homan, the sister of former Bronc Sarah Homan ’12, who compiled 21 points and seven rebounds. “Their big kid did a great job,” Milligan said of Homan, who was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year in 2012 and averaged 10.9 points and 7.1 rebounds last year, including 18 points against Rider.
The Leopards out-rebounded Rider 50-45.
The Broncs were 11 of 20 from the foul line. “We didn’t shoot the free throws very well tonight,” Milligan said.
Lafayette trailed 27-26 before out-scoring Rider 8-1 over the final 5:10 to take a 34-28 lead at the half. That was the 14th and final lead change of the game.
Trailing 18-11, Rider went on an 8-0 run, four points by McKenzie, to take a 19-18 lead with 8:31 left in the first half.
Trailing 8-6, Lafayette went on a 10-1 run, three points by Homan, to take a 16-9 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. “We gave up some easy baskets there,” Milligan said.
Lafayette returned all five starters and 11 letterwinners in all from the team that went 11-19 last year.
Rider graduate student Shereen Lightbourne (Elmsford, N.Y./Alexander Hamilton) played four minutes off the bench and had a steal. The last time Lightbourne played in a game was March 3, 2011, when she scored 10 points in a MAAC playoff game against Saint Peter’s, missing the last two seasons with two knee injuries.
Rider won 68-64 at Lafayette last year. Rider defeated the Leopards 64-56 in Alumni Gym to open the 2011-12 season.
This was the 31st meeting between these former East Coast Conference rivals.
Despite Rider winning four of the last six meetings, Lafayette holds a 21-10 advantage in the series that began in 1973-74.
Rider travels to Seton Hall Sunday for a 2pm game. “It’s a long season,” Milligan said. “We’ll learn from this and we’ll be ready for Sunday.”