Women’s College Basketball
Rider University 74, Monmouth University 64
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
LAWRENCEVILLE—Behind the 41st career ‘double-double’ (23 points, 15 rebounds) from senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)), the Rider University women’s basketball team pulled away late for a 74-64 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference ‘Hour Glass’ rivalry win over Monmouth University on Wednesday evening in Alumni Gymnasium.
“Overall I think we played a solid game,” said head coach Lynn Milligan. “It was hard fought game but the bottom line we got the win at home which has been a goal of ours”
In Milligan’s first five seasons, Rider had 20 conference wins and the Broncs have 19 MAAC wins in the last two seasons, with three regular season games to go.
Playing the whole game for the seventh time this season, McKenzie added two blocks, two steals and an assist. McKenzie is averaging 36.7 minutes per game this season.
“I’m not really worried about the numbers,” said McKenzie who is averaging 19.6 points and 11.2 rebounds this season. “I just want to put my teammates in good situations to be successful. “I’m not worried with how much I score; we just need a ‘W’ for the team at the end of the day.”
Fourth all-time on Rider's games played list (116), McKenzie is third on Rider's all-time scoring list with 1,504 points and her 1,078 rebounds are a Rider record.
Leading 47-42, Rider (13-13, 9-8 MAAC) went on a 7-0 run, three points by freshman Stephanie Mason (Jackson/Jackson Memorial) as the Broncs extended the lead to 12 with 10:32 left in the game.
Mason finished with those three points in five minutes off the bench.
After Monmouth cut the Bronc lead to 57-51, Rider responded with an 8-0 run, three points each by sophomore Mikal Johnson (Manassas, Va./Osbourn) and junior Lashay Banks (Philadelphia, Pa./Prep Charter) as the Broncs took its largest lead of the evening, 65-51 with 5:35 remaining in the game.
Johnson finished with 13 points and four assists in 30 minutes of play with Banks adding five points and five rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.
The Hawks cut the Bronc lead to five (69-64) with 1:22 left with a 6-0 run but could get no closer as Rider made three of four free throws in the final 39.3 seconds to seal the victory and sweep the season series.
Rider opened the game with five straight points, three by McKenzie and held the Hawks scoreless for the opening 1:57.
Leading 14-13, Rider scored four straight points, two each by junior Kornelija Valiuskyte (Siaulial, Lithuania) and sophomore Manon Pellet (Marseille, France) as the Broncs led 18-13, 8:56 into the contest.
Pellet had eight points, three rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes with Valiuskyte adding nine points, three rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes of play.
Rider had 14 assists in the game.
Trailing 20-15, Monmouth took the lead, 25023 with a 10-3 run at the 6:21 mark of the opening half.
The final 3:49 of the first period featured three ties before Rider broke free with a 5-0 run at the end of the half, three points by Valiuskyte and the Broncs went into intermission leading 36-32.
The game featured four ties and six lead changes, all in the opening 20 minutes.
Monmouth was led by a ‘double-double’ from Jasmine Walker who had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Also for Rider, graduate student Shereen Lightbourne (Elmsford, N.Y./Alexander Hamilton) had seven points in only 14 minutes off the bench. Lightbourne is averaging 15.3 points per 40 minutes played.
Rider out-shot Monmouth 45 percent (25-56) to 39 percent (20-52) and the Broncs tied a season-high with nine three-pointers in the contest.
Rider held a 37-36 advantage on the glass and the Broncs converted 19 Hawk turnovers into 19 points.
Rider defeated the Hawks 64-53 in West Long Branch on January 5 to sweep conference series. This was the 38th meeting between the former Northeast Conference and now MAAC-rivals with Rider winning for the 12th time.
This was also an Hour Glass rivalry game with the three New Jersey MAAC schools (Monmouth, Rider, Saint Peter’s) competing across all sports to crown an overall champion at the end of the spring season.
“Hopefully they can continue to become a rival with the New Jersey connection,” Milligan said about Monmouth. “Tonight, they challenged us every step of the way.”
The game was also Code Cranberry where the other 19 varsity teams at Rider came out and supported the women’s basketball team as one team that is Rider Athletics.
Fifth place Rider hosts defending conference champion Marist College on Friday at 5 p.m., in Alumni Gym.
“We need to finish strong and we’re not just playing to get a bye,” McKenzie said about the final three games of the regular season. “We’re playing just to get wins at this point and go into the conference tournament with momentum.”
“It’s one of those years that when you step out on the floor you can throw the records out the window,” Milligan said about the parity in the league that saw the Broncs give first place Iona its only MAAC loss. “If you don’t come out ready to play for 40 minutes, you won’t win, it’s that simple. It’s been that way all year and really has been an amazing conference if you look at all the teams.”
The top five teams all receive an opening round bye on the first day of the MAAC Championship in Springfield, Massachusetts, March 6-10.