Women’s College Basketball
Rider University 64, Monmouth University 53
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
WEST LONG BRANCH—Freshman Stephanie Mason (Jackson, N.J.) scored a game-high 14 points off the bench for the Rider University women’s basketball team as the Broncs defeated Monmouth University 64-53 in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game on Sunday afternoon.
“Any conference road win is a good win,” said head coach Lynn Milligan. “With four games in eight days and three on the road, we’ll take it. Are we totally happy with a 2-2 split? No but at the same time, taking two of three on the road to start conference play is a good thing. Overall, we played a pretty solid game today.”
Mason, who was a four-year letterwinner and 1,000 point scorer at nearby Jackson Memorial High School, finished with four three-pointers in only 17 minutes of play.
“Steph is growing,” Milligan said. “She doesn’t play with a lot of fear and really, her biggest obstacle is herself. Today, she got good looks, her teammates put her in successful situations and she came through.”
“The pace of the game is different,” Mason said about adjusting from high school to the collegiate game. “Especially adjusting to my role after playing a lot in high school, understanding that role has been a big adjustment for me.”
Rider (6-7, 2-2 MAAC) opened the game on a 16-2 run in the first 10:50 of the contest, six points by Mason and five points from sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn).
The Bronc defense held Monmouth to 0-11 shooting in the first 7:39 of the game and the Hawks shot 7-27 (25.9 percent) in the opening 20 minutes.
“We discussed moving and sharing the ball,” Milligan said. “We did that today and you saw the result, especially in the opening 10 minutes of the game. We trusted each other and that got us good looks at the basket. And defensively in the opening half, we were on point. Overall, I was happy with the effort on both ends of the floor.”
Johnson finished with 12 points in 37 minutes of play.
Leading 19-7, the Broncs scored nine of the next 12 points, four points by junior Marritta Gillcrease (Pittsburgh, Pa./Perry Traditional Academy) as Rider took its largest lead of the game, 28-10 with 3:13 left in the first half.
Gillcrease finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
Monmouth (2-13, 1-3 MAAC) finished the opening half on a 7-2 run, cutting the Bronc lead to 30-17 at intermission.
Trailing 37-21, the Hawks used an 11-2 run to cut Rider’s lead to seven (39-32) with 11:02 remaining before Rider responded with a 9-2 run, five points by Mason, pushing the lead back to 14 (48-34) with 6:47 left.
Trailing 57-44, Monmouth made one final push, cutting the Bronc lead to six (59-53) with 1:12 left on the strength of a 9-2 run but that was as close as the Hawks would get.
Rider finished the game five of six from the free throw line in the final minute, three points from senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)) as the Broncs made 14 of 16 free throws.
“We’ve been staying composed in every one of our games,” McKenzie said. “That is a key component for us.”
“We played tough and had each other’s back,” Mason added about the final six minutes of play.
McKenzie entered play with five straight games with 20 or more points before being held to 11 points Sunday but she pulled down seven rebounds and added three assists, two steals and a block in 35 minutes.
McKenzie entered play as the second leading scorer and rebounder in the conference.
“When MyNeshia doesn’t have to score 30 points for us to win, then obviously we are growing as a basketball team,” Milligan said. “Steph stepped up and Mikal gave us some good scoring and Lashay (Banks) also had a good game for us today. We were solid across the board.”
Banks (Philadelphia, Pa./Prep Charter), a red-shirt junior, finished with nine points, two assists and two steals.
Rider out-shot the Hawks 43 percent (21-49) to 38 percent (21-55) and the Broncs made a season-high eight field goals from three-point distance.
This was the 36th meeting all-time between Monmouth and Rider with the Broncs defeating their former Northeast Conference and now MAAC-rival for the 11th time and second time in a row.
Rider and Monmouth were in the NEC for five seasons before the Broncs moved to the MAAC for the 1997-98 season. The Hawks joined the MAAC this season.
The teams meet again at Rider on February 19 at 7 p.m.
This is the second time this season that Rider has led a game wire to wire.
This was Rider’s third MAAC road game in the first four conference games of the season.
Rider hosts Saint Peter’s in a MAAC game on Thursday as the Broncs celebrate Kid’s Day at noon in Alumni Gymnasium, the first of a three-game home stand.
“You want to have momentum with three home games coming up,” Milligan said. “It is nice to go home and prepare after a win but we also stress that the things that upset you after a loss also have to upset you after a win and there are things we need to continue to work on.”