Women’s College Basketball – Navy Classic
Rider University 60, Maryland, Baltimore County 48
ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Led by 15 points off the bench from freshman Stephanie Mason (Jackson/Jackson Memorial), the Rider University women’s basketball team rallied from a 10-point, second half deficit, to defeat the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Friday afternoon at the Navy Classic.
“It wasn’t one of our better games,” said head coach Lynn Milligan. “But we responded at halftime and we out-scored them (UMBC) by 18 in the final period.”
“I think we came out a little stagnant,” Mason said. “We got a little spark of energy in the second half and we pulled out the win.”
Trailing 30-20 with 17:26 left in the game, Rider (2-4) went on a 16-6 run, five points by Mason and the Broncs tied the game 36-36 on a three-pointer from sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) with 11:51 remaining.
Mason made three, three-pointers and added two assists and two steals as the Broncs held the Retrievers to 22 second half points.
“Steph is fearless,” Milligan said. “Sometimes you see her take a shot and you are like ‘oh no’ and then she comes right back down and buries a huge three-pointer. She has ice water in her veins.”
“Those are the shots we practice every day,” Mason said about her long range ability. “I’ve been working with coach (John) Miller and I just wanted to go out and do my best. My teammates set good screens and gave me good passes and I was able to make the shots when we needed them.”
Johnson finished with nine points to go along with four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 28 minutes of play.
Leading 51-48, Rider finished the game on a 9-0 run, four points each by Mason and senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)) for the final score as the Broncs made five of six free throws in the final two minutes.
“We got some better looks in the final period but just didn’t make the shots,” Milligan added. “With that said, we had players step up with some big plays when we needed it. Once we got the lead, we didn’t lose it and that was big for us.”
Rider’s leading scorer averaging 20 points a game, McKenzie was held to a season-low nine points but was able to pull down 12 rebounds, five on the offensive glass as she moved into third place all-time on the Rider rebounding list with 854, passing Bronc Hall of Famer Kelly Eckardt.
Rider held a 41-37 rebounding advantage.
McKenzie is now 14th on Rider’s all-time scoring list with 1,104, one point behind Lisa Federici and Patricka Smith.
UMBC (1-6) jumped out to an early 12-5 lead, nine minutes into the game.
Rider responded with a 5-0 run, three points by Mason and two points from junior Lashay Banks (Philadelphia, Pa./Prep Charter), cutting the deficit to 12-10 at the 9:28 mark.
Banks finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four steals in 31 minutes of play.
“Neither had a ‘great’ game,” Milligan said about Banks and McKenzie. “But they were steady and we needed all the players to be steady in today’s game.”
Trailing 19-10, the Broncs scored six straight, three points each by McKenzie and Banks as Rider cut the Retriever lead to 19-16 with 4:57 left before the half.
The Retrievers responded with a 5-0 run, pushing the lead back to eight before Banks hit a jumper with 1:22 left in the opening period and the teams went into intermission with the score 26-20 UMBC.
“We were pretty calm during the half,” Milligan said. “We knew we didn’t play well but we had held UMBC to only 26 points and we also knew that if we cleaned some things up and made some more shots, we would be able to come back in the final 20 minutes.”
Also for the Broncs, junior Marritta Gillcrease (Pittsburgh, Pa./Perry Traditional Academy) tied a career-high with 10 points and was one off a career-high with eight rebounds, playing 27 minutes.
“One of the things that I try to do is being a voice and communicate on the court,” said Gillcrease. “I didn’t have a good game the last couple of games so I was just focused on communicating better and rebounding and doing all the things that my team needs me to do to get us going.”
“With Emily (Fazzini) out with an injury, Marritta has been a big voice for us, not only in the games but in practice,” Milligan said. “When we had Emily’s injury, we kind of lost our energetic voice and Marritta has been trying to fill that role for us and she did that today. When we needed energy and a voice, it was hers and that was great to see.”
Rider was out-shot 39 percent (20-51) to 31 percent (20-64) but the Broncs went 15-20 from the free throw line, compared to six for eight for UMBC from the charity stripe.
“We got to the free throw line and made them,” Milligan said. “That was huge.”
For the third game in a row, Rider committed less than 10 turnovers and the Broncs forced 21 turnovers by UMBC.
Former East Coast Conference rivals, Rider and UMBC have now met nine times with Rider winning its third in the series. The Broncs last defeated the Retrievers 74-69 on February 20, 1992.
With the win, Rider snapped a two-game losing streak. UMBC has lost six in a row.
The Broncs stay in Annapolis to face the host Midshipmen of Navy on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“Navy is going to be a huge challenge for us,” Milligan said. “They have a lot of seniors and with their success in the Patriot League and making NCAAs, they obviously know how to win. We are going to need a great effort. It will be a good test for us and we will be ready.”
After a break for final exams, Rider returns home to face Binghamton on December 14 at 1 p.m., in Alumni Gymnasium.