Women’s College Basketball
Rider University 66, Binghamton University 63 O.T.
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ—Senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield-Delco) compiled a career-high 27 points and a career-high 20 rebounds to lead Rider to an overtime victory over Binghamton Saturday afternoon.
“I would not have guessed 27 and 20 from Mac today,” head coach Lynn Milligan said. “I thought she made some bad mistakes but when you have a First Team All-Conference performer who is your senior captain and your leader, and you are struggling on your home floor to find a way to win, that is what she is supposed to do. She refused to lose today and carried us to the victory.”
“I was settling for jump shots,” McKenzie said about her early struggles, opening the game one for seven from the field. “Coach Milligan and Coach Miller both told me to get to the basket and I just did what I had to do for the team.”
McKenzie played all but 29 seconds in the game, logging 44:31 in playing time.
Sophomore Manon Pellet (Marseille, France) scored four of her six points in the overtime period, when the Broncs out-scored the Bearcats 8-5 and she added five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 28 minutes.
“We were young in that overtime and gutted it out,” Milligan said. "Manon is putting in the extra time in the gym and is taking steps in the right direction. I thought she struggled in some moments today but when we needed her to step up and be the point guard, take care of the ball and make free throws, I thought she did that.”
Sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) made two foul shots with 19 seconds left in overtime for the final score. Johnson finished with 16 points.
“Mikal was great in her last two games,” Milligan said. “With some players out (due to injury) we have relied on her to step up and she has answered the challenge. I thought she was terrific, especially defensively.”
“Mikal was kind of under the radar a bit last year,” McKenzie said. “She can flat out score and we needed her to do that today and she stepped up big. Opponents are going to begin to realize that they have to guard her.”
“I realized over the last two games that I’m going to be successful attacking the basket,” said Johnson who scored a career-high 20 points in Rider’s last game against Navy on November 30 to earn all-tournament honors at the Navy Classic. “With our injuries, I feel like I’m being counted on more to step up.”
For McKenzie, who ranks second in the MAAC in both scoring (17.9 ppg) and rebounding (10.7), the double-double was the 31st of her career and the fifth of the season.
“MyNeshia was awesome today,” Johnson said. “She knows how to score, rebound and play strong defense. She is a big part of our program and we feed off her energy.”
McKenzie now has 1,147 points in her Bronc career, good for 10th all-time at Rider and her 882 rebounds ranks third all-time as a Bronc.
Rider’s last 27 point game was at Niagara on February 24, 2008 by Janele Henderson, with the Broncs winning 65-62.
The last 20 rebound effort by a Bronc was Sarah Homan, on February 6, 2011 against Iona in a 93-87 double overtime win against the Gaels.
The loss was the fifth straight for Binghamton (1-9, 0-0 America East).
Bearcat Vaneeshia Paulk scored a lay-up with 3.4 seconds left in the second half to send the game into overtime, but missed a foul shot with 22.4 left in overtime that would have tied the score at 64-64. Paulk finished with 13 points.
“This was good for the newcomers to feel what overtime is like,” McKenzie said about her eighth overtime game in 98 career contests. “It feels great for Rider to come out with the win. It wasn’t always pretty but we got the job done.”
McKenzie’s lay-up with 50.4 seconds left in the second half tied the score at 56-56 and her foul shots gave Rider a 58-56 lead with 11.9 seconds left in regulation.
“I am looked upon to give the team energy,” McKenzie said. “That’s what the team counts on me to do.”
After opening the season 24-41 from the free throw line in the first two games of the season (59 percent), Rider has improved to 70 percent from the charity stripe, including making 24 of 26 foul shots in today's game (92 percent) and a four for four free throw effort in overtime.
Rider (3-5, 0-0 MAAC) used a 9-1 run, three points by freshman Stephanie Mason (Jackson/Jackson Memorial), to tie the score at 52 with 3:52 left in the second half. Mason finished with eight points off the bench.
"Steph and the rest of the bench gave us some good minutes, especially with some of the early foul trouble that we were in," Milligan said.
Trailing 41-39, Binghamton out-scored Rider 12-2, seven points by Julia Barac, to take a 51-43 lead with 7:07 remaining in the second half. Barac finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds off the bench.
Trailing 34-32, Rider went on a 7-2 run, five points by Johnson, to take a 39-36 lead with 14:15 left in the second half.
Rider scored the first seven points of the second half, three by Johnson, to take its first lead of the game, 30-28.
With the score tied at 21, Binghamton out-scored Rider 7-2, four points by Barac, to take a 28-23 lead at half time.
Making her first start since March of 2011, graduate student Shereen Lightbourne (Elmsford, NY/Alexander Hamilton) scored a lay-up to tie the score at 21-21 with 2:45 left in the first half.
Binghamton junior forward Sherae Swinson, who is averaging 11.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, finished with just eight points.
Rider out-rebounded Binghamton 47-45.
The game featured 12 ties, including nine ties in the second half and the contest had seven lead changes.
This was Rider’s 31st overtime game since the 1981-82 season with the Broncs winning for the 14th time in o.t., over that span. Rider is now 8-5 under Milligan in overtime games.
Rider and Binghamton began playing each other three years ago. Rider won the last meeting by 10 points at Binghamton in December of 2011 with a 16-0 run, and lost the first one by 13 points here in Alumni Gym on November 20, 2010. Rider did not play Binghamton last year.
Before Saturday Rider had not played since November 30.
“It was hard getting back into game speed,” McKenzie said about the 14 day layoff. “Practice speed isn’t the same as a game so it took a little while to get things going.”
“I was a little anxious until I made a few shots,” Johnson added about the slow start. “As the game went on, we got into a better flow.”
Rider opened the game one for 11 from the field but held the Bearcats to three of 17 shooting in the first 11 minutes of the contest.
“We looked like a team that hasn’t played in 14 days,” Milligan said. “We were out of sync. I have to take responsibility for that and make sure we are better prepared for our next game.”
Rider hosts Central Connecticut December 21.
“Heading into conference play at the end of the month, our goal is to be 4-5,” McKenzie added. “We needed this one today and we need to play well at home against CCSU next week. It was a tough game but the win gives us confidence.”
“It was important to grind one out today,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a few close games that we didn’t win so today’s game became that much more important, especially playing at home.”