Women’s College Basketball
Rider University 68, Saint Peter’s University 40
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
LAWRENCEVILLE—Led by ‘double-doubles’ from senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)) and freshman Julia Duggan (Marmora/Ocean City), the Rider University women’s basketball team won its second in a row, defeating Saint Peter’s University 68-40 on Thursday afternoon in Alumni Gymnasium.
“I’m really, really happy with what we did on offense today,” said head coach Lynn Milligan. “I thought it was a good bump from what we did our last game at Monmouth and showed that the team continues to grow. We took some good steps today.”
McKenzie had 14 points and 13 rebounds for her 33rd career ‘double-double’ and seventh of the season with Duggan compiling 11 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench for her first career ‘double-double’.
“This was a good game for Jules,” Milligan said. “She works so hard every day and I was happy her teammates were able to give her the basketball in the block and that she had some easy looks while also playing strong defense against Saint Peter’s best player, Kaydine Bent.”
“I’ve just been working really hard in practice,” Duggan said about her career day. “Marritta (Gillcrease) has been working hard with me, and facing her each day, that is making me such a better player. She is preparing me for everyone we are going to face. It takes time to adjust to this level with players bigger and stronger than I faced in high school and she has really helped me along.”
Gillcrease, a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Perry Traditional Academy) had eight points, four rebounds and three blocks.
“We let a couple games get away from us,” Gillcrease said about the Broncs hitting the .500 mark. “We just show up every day and work hard so that we can become as good as we are capable of. We try to elevate our game each time on the floor.”
“When we can do what we need to do in the post, it makes it 10 times easier for our shooters to get open looks and makes it easier for everyone to score,” Duggan added. “It also takes the pressure off MyNeshia.”
“I’m gaining confidence,” Gillcrease said. “I’m working to take pressure off MyNeshia and open up the floor for Lashay (Banks) and Steph (Mason) and Shereen (Lightbourne) when they come into the game. I’m also really excited for Julia and how she is developing. I had a really strong relationship with Sarah Homan and Caitlin Bopp and we used to just beat each other up in practice and I’m trying to help Duggan by playing hard in practice so the games are that much easier. I’m proud of her development.”
Trailing 7-6, Rider (7-7, 3-2 MAAC) went on a 13-2 run, five points by sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) and four points from red-shirt junior Lashay Banks (Philadelphia, Pa./Prep Charter) as the Broncs took a 19-9 lead with 9:50 remaining in the opening half.
Banks recorded 10 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes of play with Johnson adding eight points and two assists in 27 minutes of action.
After Saint Peter’s (2-12, 1-4 MAAC) cut the Bronc lead to five, Rider responded with an 11-2 run, four points by McKenzie and three points from graduate student Shereen Lightbourne (Elmsford, N.Y./Alexander Hamilton) as the Broncs pushed the lead to 14 (30-16), 4:17 before halftime.
Lightbourne had five points in only 10 minutes off the bench and added four assists and three rebounds.
McKenzie had a three-point play with 1:35 remaining in the opening half to put Rider ahead 36-18 before the Peacocks went on a 5-0 run, making the score 36-23 Rider at intermission.
Leading 38-26, Rider used a 9-0 run to put the game away, six points by McKenzie as the Bronc opened up a 47-26 margin with 13:23 left in the game.
McKenzie moved into sixth place all-time on Rider’s scoring list (1,275 points) and her 933 rebounds are now second best all-time as a Bronc, behind only Rider Hall of Famer Jessica Beck who pulled down 1,023 rebounds (and had 1,015 points) from 1993-1996.
Leading 55-35, the Broncs ended the game, scoring 13 of the last 18 points for the final score.
Rider held a 45-37 rebounding advantage and the Broncs recorded a season-high 18 assists on 27 made field goals.
“We are starting to see the fruits of our labor,” Milligan added. “We are sharing the ball more, moving the ball and making good decisions. We need to continue that to be successful in the MAAC.”
This was Rider’s best defensive effort of the season, holding the Peacocks to 40 points; the 21st time under Milligan that Rider has held an opponent under 50 and it ties the lowest opponent point total in 194 games under Milligan (58-40 win vs. Niagara on February 15, 2009).
“You hold a team to 40 and that means you did a good job on defense,” Milligan said. “But you can’t overlook the job we did finishing plays. Because we rebounded better today, we were able to get into our primary breaks sooner and that keyed the offense.”
Rider entered the game 20th in the nation in least turnovers per game (11.9) and the Broncs had a season low four turnovers (only one in the second half) on Thursday.
“The low turnover rate is really a credit to the work our players did in the gym over the summer,” Milligan added. “They are starting to see that all of those little drills we do actually make a difference. It shows the growth and maturity of the team that we don’t have to make crazy passes on offense, just good solid ones.”
The Bronc defense caused 11 Peacock turnovers, including three shot clock violations.
Rider out-shot the Peacocks 41.5 percent (27-65) to 29.1 percent (16-55).
The Broncs made five three-pointers and Rider was nine for 10 from the free throw line.
Also for Rider, sophomore Manon Pellet (Marseille, France) had six points and five assists in 25 minutes of play.
Saint Peter’s was led by 15 points and nine rebounds from Kaydine Bent.
Rider and Saint Peter’s meet again only nine days from today, with the Broncs traveling to Jersey City at 2 p.m., on January 18.
This was the 54th meeting between the schools with Rider winning for the 12th time and third time in a row. The Broncs swept the season series in 2012-13, winning at Rider 74-51 and in Jersey City 73-58.
Today was a special noon start as part of the NCAA marketing initiative Kid’s Day out with several local elementary schools sending students over for the game.
“Today was important, not only for Rider but for the game of women’s basketball,” Milligan added about the NCAA Kid’s Day. “Our game is such a hidden gem and the more people we can get involved in the game, the better off our sport will be. We hope everyone enjoyed themselves and that they want to come back.”
Rider had three games last season that saw two players record 'double-doubles', with Caitlin Bopp and McKenzie teaming up for the accomplishment on March 8, 2013 vs. Niagara in the MAAC tournament, March 3, 2013 against Iona and at Loyola Maryland on January 13, 2013.
Rider hosts Canisius (5-9, 1-4 MAAC) on Sunday at 2 p.m., in Alumni Gym.
“We have a lot of work to do to get ready for Sunday,” Milligan added. “They are a veteran club and we have to prepare hard and make sure we are ready. It is going to be a tough game.”
The Golden Griffs play at Monmouth on Friday at noon.