Women’s College Basketball
Marist College 66, Rider University 56
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
McKenzie 1000th Career Rebound
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.—Despite a career-high 15 points from junior Kornelija Valiuskyte (Siauliai, Lithuania), the Rider University women’s basketball team lost a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game to defending conference champion Marist College on Wednesday evening at McCann Arena.
“We followed the game plan really well in the opening half,” said head coach Lynn Milligan who coached her 200th game at Rider. “We did a good job on the help side and got some steals and our switches were on point.”
Rider had seven of its 12 steals in the opening half.
Leading 26-25 at intermission, Marist opened the second half on a 7-0 run, three points by Leanne Ockenden as the Red Foxes pushed their lead to 33-25 with 17:35 left in the game.
Ockenden finished with nine points, six rebounds and two assists as the Red Foxes recovered from a one for nine effort from three-point range in the opening half to make four of seven three-pointers in the final 20 minutes.
“We missed a few switches and Marist had some wide open looks and took advantage of them,” Milligan added.
Valiuskyte hit a three-pointer, cutting the Bronc deficit to five before an 8-2 run by the Red Foxes put their lead to 11 with 14:54 left.
“It was a solid game,” Milligan added. “We had some players give some really solid efforts. This is a game we can learn from and take some positives from. We’re not satisfied to be close because you go in wanting to win every game.”
Valiuskyte had a career-high five field goals from three-point distance and she added a career-high five assists and tied a career-high with three steals, playing all 40 minutes, also a career-high.
“KV is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Milligan said. “She is a junior and understands that this is the time of the year that we need her to step up. She has great leadership qualities.”
Valiuskyte is averaging 14 points a game in the two games since entering the starting lineup and more importantly has logged almost 38 minutes a contest in the games against Siena and Marist.
Graduate-student Shereen Lightbourne (Elmsford, N.Y./Alexander Hamilton) hit a three-pointer with 7:54 left in the game and senior MyNeshia McKenzie hit a jumper with 7:26 left, bringing Rider to within four (50-46) but that was as close as Rider would get.
Lightbourne finished with 13 points and a career-high four steals in only 14 minutes of play.
“Shereen has been through a lot,” Milligan said about Lightbourne’s three knee surgeries. “When you call her number, she takes advantage. Her role is to come in off the bench and spark us. Tonight was a great example; we are down double-digits and she is diving on the floor to get a steal in the last minute of the game.”
McKenzie, who picked up career rebound 1,000 in the first half, finished with her 37th career ‘double-double and 11th of the season, compiling 11 points and 14 rebounds.
“We played well,” said McKenzie who became only the second Rider women’s player all-time with over 1,000 points and over 1,000 rebounds, joining Bronc Hall of Famer Jessica Beck. “We just had a couple breakdowns on defense that cost us. Thinking about the milestone, I’m probably more proud of the rebounds because that’s over 1,000 plays that you have to hustle on and Coach Durkin and Coach Milligan are on me every single day and preach that blue collar kind of play to go after the ball.”
McKenzie has now 1,006 rebounds, 17 behind Beck and her 1,381 points are sixth best all-time at Rider.
Leading 50-46, Marist (16-5, 10-1 MAAC) used a 9-0 run, five points by Emma O’Connor to put the game away, opening up a 13-point lead with 4:31 left.
“The opening four minutes, Marist jumped on us,” Milligan said. “We cut the lead to four but had a couple of let downs. You have to make shots and you can’t make any mistakes because Marist takes advantage of every single one.”
O’Connor finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds and she added three assists and a steal in 33 minutes.
Trailing 5-2, Rider went on a 5-0 run, three points by Valiuskyte as the Broncs took a 7-5 lead with 16:54 left.
Trailing by two, Marist went on a 6-0 run, as the Red Foxes went back into the lead 11-7 with 14:16 left in the opening period.
Leading 21-19, Marist went on a 5-0 run, opening up a seven-point lead with 3:08 left in the opening period.
Rider responded by closing the opening half on a 6-0 run, with back to back three-pointers from sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) and Valiuskyte cutting the Red Fox lead to one (26-25) at intermission.
Johnson finished with five points.
Rider was out-rebounded 41-28 .
Marist was a perfect 13 for 13 from the free throw line.
Marist has won 21 straight over the Broncs and the Red Foxes lead the all-time series 36-13.
The teams meet again at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville on February 21 in Rider's final home game of the season, beginning at 4 p.m.
The Marist women avenged a loss to Rider by the Red Fox men by the same 66-56 score on January 18.
Rider travels to Manhattan on Saturday for a MAAC game at 2pm.
“We have two days to prepare for Manhattan,” said Milligan who saw her squad lose to the Jaspers 50-47 on January 16. “We defended them pretty well but just didn’t put enough points on the board.”