Rider 92, Iona 90 (OT)
Women’s College Basketball
Rider University 92, Iona College 90 (ot)
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
LAWRENCEVILLE— Records are made to be broken. Just not all in one night.
Senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield-Delco) scored a Rider record 37 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, playing all 45 minutes, to lead Rider to an upset of first place Iona in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference National Game of the Week on ESPN 3 Thursday evening.
“I don’t think I’ve had a game like this stat wise,” McKenzie said. “I don’t think about big nights for myself, I just come out and do what I can for this team. I’m supposed to be a leader and Coach Milligan has said February is ‘go time’ and that’s what I try to bring for each game.”
“We were excited to play Iona tonight,” said head coach Lynn Milligan who saw her squad face the Gaels for the second year in a row on ESPN 3. “But with that said, it was the next game on the schedule. We are thrilled with the win and the grit and heart that the team showed.”
With her eighth rebound of the game McKenzie broke the Rider career rebound record (1,023) set by Rider Hall of Famer Jessica Beck in 1996.
“The rebounding record feels great,” McKenzie said. “Jess Beck was a great player here and to get that record is an honor. The records are something I’ll think about when I’m older, I’m just focused on having our team try to hang a banner before my career ends.”
McKenzie, who is second in the MAAC in both scoring and rebounding, now has 1,035 career rebounds, only the 12th player in conference history with over 1,000 rebounds.
The 37 points tied the Rider record set by Nancy Carroll during the 1990-91 season and McKenzie’s 1,434 career points are now fifth best all-time at Rider.
Rider sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) scored with 2:27 left in overtime to give Rider an 85-84 lead, the 12th and final lead change of the game. The game also had 13 ties. Johnson finished with 20 points and seven rebounds, tying her career high for both.
Rider sophomore Manon Pellet (Marseille, France) hit a baseline jumper with 54.4 seconds left in overtime to give Rider an 89-85 lead. Pellet finished with six points and five assists.
Iona junior Aleesha Powell hit a three-point field goal with 27.6 left to tie the score at 80-80, the 11th tie of the game, sending the game into overtime. Her three-point field goal with 49 seconds left in overtime cut the Rider lead to 89-88. Powell finished with 27 points.
“Powell was fantastic,” Milligan said. “We bent but didn’t break. Every time we thought we had it, Powell hit another big shot. I’m proud of our team for how they responded.”
The victory snapped Iona’s 18-game winning streak which was the fourth longest current winning streak in the nation.
“This was the most complete game we played this season,” Milligan said. “We’ve played some really good ball games but tonight we were balanced and defensively, we were solid, even giving up 90 points. We had our breakdowns but offensively we were able to control the pace of the game and attack when we needed to.”
“We are playing with a lot more enthusiasm and energy every day,” McKenzie said. “Right now, we are clicking as opposed to earlier in the year.”
A MAAC Player of the Year candidate, McKenzie converted a three-point play to give Rider an 80-77 lead with 46.4 seconds left in regulation.
“After tonight, I would hope that MyNeshia is in the conversation for Player of the Year,” Milligan said. “Arguably, I think you saw the three best players in the league on the floor tonight with MyNeshia, Joy (Adams) and Damika (Martinez). All of them put on a fantastic show. They (the Iona players) have carried the MAAC banner proudly but don’t sleep on MyNeshia.”
McKenzie recorded the 39th double-double of her career and 13th of the season.
Trailing 73-70, Rider (11-11, 7-6 MAAC) out-scored Iona 7-2, all seven points by McKenzie, to take a 77-75 lead with 1:10 remaining in the second half.
Iona (19-3, 12-1 MAAC) out-scored Rider 13-5 to start the second half, six points by Powell, to take a 45-43 lead with 16:02 left to play in the second half.
With the score tied at 25-25, Rider went on a 13-4 run, six points by junior Lashay Banks (Philadelphia, PA/Prep Charter), to take a 38-29 lead, and Rider led 38-32 at the half. Banks finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Rider out-rebounded Iona 25-13 in the first half, 11 by McKenzie, and held a 44-42 advantage on the boards for the game.
Rider out-scored Iona 11-2, six points by McKenzie, to take a 22-17 lead with 7:40 left in the first half.
Damika Martinez scored Iona’s first eight points, helping the Gaels take a 10-9 lead. Martinez entered the game averaging 24.8 points per game, tops in the MAAC and finished with 20 points.
Rider scored the first eight points of the game, four points by freshman Julia Duggan (Marmora/Ocean City), who finished with five points.
“Having other players also step up is a sign of a team growing together,” Milligan added. “We have kids who are not afraid to take a big shot. I like when the team plays with no fear and an enthusiasm that you refuse to lose.”
Also for Iona, Joy Adams compiled 23 points and 20 rebounds. Adams came into play averaging 18.2 points and 13.8 rebounds.
This was the 37th meeting between Rider and Iona with the Broncs winning for the 14th time. Three of the last eight games in the series have gone into overtime with Rider winning twice. Rider defeated the Gaels in double-overtime, 93-87, exactly three years ago tonight.
“I don’t know what it is about playing Iona,” said McKenzie who is averaging 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds in eight games against the Gaels out of her 112-game career. “I just need to win against them every time. It’s in my belly.”
McKenzie is averaging over 37 minutes a contest against Iona including playing 40 or more minutes in four of the eight games.
The teams meet again in New Rochelle, New York on February 16.
Rider improved to 5-1 this season in games decided by three or less points.
Nine of Rider’s 22 games this season have been decided by six or less points.
The Broncs are now 2-0 in overtime this season and Rider has won nine of 14 o.t. games under Milligan.
Rider hosts Niagara Sunday at 1pm. That will also be National Girls and Women in Sports Day at Rider.
“We are on our way to peaking at the right time,” Milligan said. “With that said, there are a lot of games left to be played and we need focus and balance for this to continue.”