Women’s College Basketball
Rider University 73, Manhattan College 56
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
RIVERDALE, N.Y.—Led by the 38th career ‘double-double’ (16 points and 10 rebounds) from senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)), the Rider University women’s basketball team won 73-56 at Manhattan College on Saturday afternoon in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game.
“We scored 73 points but I thought our defense was outstanding,” said head coach Lynn Milligan. “We were on-point and contested their shooters.”
“Today was a quality win,” said McKenzie. “We were able to put together a 40 minute game.”
McKenzie recorded her 12th ‘double-double’ of the season and third career ‘double-double’ against Manhattan.
Trailing 24-22, Rider (10-11, 6-6 MAAC) ended the opening half with a 12-2 run, four points by McKenzie and the Broncs opened the second half on a 6-0 run to put the game away.
Manhattan (5-16, 4-8 MAAC) started the game on a 7-0 run in the opening 1:39 of the contest, including three points by Nicole Isaacs.
Isaacs finished with 10 points.
“We started a little slow,” Milligan said. “The defensive effort really got us going and allowed us to get back into the game and also took pressure off the offense.”
Junior Kornelija Valiuskyte (Siauliai, Lithuania) hit a three-pointer as part of a 7-0 Rider run, tying the score 7-7 with 16:08 left in the opening half.
In 34 minutes of play, Valiuskyte finished with eight points.
After averaging 16 minutes a game in the first 18 games of the season (all off the bench), Valiuskyte is averaging 36 minutes a contest in the last three games, all starts.
The Jaspers responded with a 5-0 run, three points by Blake Underhill as Manhattan went ahead 12-7.
Underhill finished with five points and three rebounds.
Rider rallied with a 6-0 run, two points each by Valiuskyte, McKenzie and junior Marritta Gillcrease (Pittsburgh, Pa./Perry Traditional Academy) as the Broncs took their first lead 13-12 with 13:03 left in the opening half.
Gillcrease finished with two points and a rebound in 10 minutes off the bench.
Manhattan responded by scoring six of the next seven points with three different players scoring as the Jaspers went back into the lead 18-14 with 9:25 left in the first half.
Manhattan was led by New Jersey native Monica Roeder (Marlton) who finished with 14 points.
Freshman Stephanie Mason (Jackson/Jackson Memorial) hit a three-pointer to put Rider in the lead, 19-18 and a steal and layup by sophomore Manon Pellet (Marseille, France) gave the Broncs a 22-20 lead, with 6:43 left in the opening half.
Pellet had eight points, three assists and three steals in 20 minutes with Mason adding three points in five minutes off the bench.
“Both our point guards (Pellet and Valiuskyte) put points on the board,” Milligan said. “That took pressure off the rest of the lineup.”
The opening 20 minutes had four ties and seven lead changes.
Also for Rider, sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) had 12 points, three blocks, two assists and two steals in 26 minutes of play with graduate student Shereen Lightbourne (Elmsford, N.Y./Alexander Hamilton) adding 12 points in only 14 minutes of play and junior Lashay Banks (Philadelphia, Pa./Prep Charter) compiled 11 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
Lightbourne made three of Rider’s six three-pointers in the game.
“Shereen coming in and hitting those three-pointers was big,” Milligan added. “I told her that she is a senior in February and she rose up to the challenge. Mikal also had a great defensive game as well. We are a much better team when we have balanced scoring. We shared the ball and moved the ball.”
In her last two games, Lightbourne has 25 points in 28 minutes of playing time, shooting .500 (8 for 16) and hitting five three-pointers.
“In my last two games, I have just focused on being more confident,” said Lightbourne. “I try my best when my number is called. I missed two seasons with injuries and this is the last season of my career. I really value any opportunity to help the team.”
“I told the team that this is now February and it’s ‘go time’,” said McKenzie, an All-MAAC Preseason First Team selection. “This was a great start to the month. It is always great to have balanced scoring and it makes teams have to adjust because they can’t just focus on me.”
Freshman Julia Duggan (Marmora/Ocean City) had nine rebounds, four on the offensive glass for Rider.
The Broncs out-shot Manhattan 42 percent to 40 percent and Rider was 25-35 from the free throw line.
Rider out-rebounded the Jaspers 34-24, 13-5 on the offensive glass.
“We were a little lax with our offensive rebounding lately so today was a nice effort,” said Milligan. “When MyNeshia is getting offensive rebounds, good things are going to happen.”
McKenzie had four offensive rebounds in the game and she now has 1,016 rebounds in her Bronc career, trailing only Jessica Beck who recorded a Rider record 1,023 rebounds from 1993-96.
The Bronc defense caused 17 turnovers by the Jaspers and committed only 10, four in the second half.
This was the 11th win for the Broncs in the 38-game series against the Jaspers and Rider has won three of the last four against Manhattan.
Rider avenged a 50-47 loss to the Jaspers in Lawrenceville on January 16.
“Today we played really well as a unit,” Lightbourne said. “We have been working hard this week to prepare for the 1-3-1 that Manhattan would throw at us. The last time we played them, we had 26 turnovers so we made sure to take care of the ball.”
“The players bought into the adjustments and did a great job,” Milligan added about the difference from two weeks ago. “Today was about everybody playing team defense and having all five players on the floor focused on guarding the ball. We need all the players every day, that’s how we are built.”
This was Rider’s 300th regular season MAAC game.
Rider hosts Iona on February 6 at 6 p.m. in a game that will be seen as part of a doubleheader with the Bronc men on ESPN 3.