Women's College Basketball
Niagara University 69, Rider University 53
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game
NIAGARA UNIV., N.Y.--Playing with only 10 healthy players, the Rider University women's basketball team lost a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at Niagara University Friday morning.
"Niagara was relentless and really came at us with their defense," said head coach Lynn Milligan. "We made some good adjustments in the second half but some of our shots didn't fall when we needed them to."
Junior Caitlin Bopp (Baltimore, Md./Inst. of Notre Dame) hit a jumper with 5:18 left in the game, bringing Rider to within 57-49, one of several times the Broncs cut the Niagara lead to eight. Bopp finished with 15 points and seven rebounds before fouling out with 3:45 remaining.
"It was an eight point game four times in a row," remembered Milligan. "We got four stops and four times in a row, we got good looks and they didn't fall. The right players took the shots, we executed the plays and the shot just didn't fall, that's the game of basketball sometimes."
Niagara led 51-37 before Rider went on a 10-4 run, five points by sophomore MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)) as the Broncs cut the Purple Eagle lead to 55-47 with 5:49 left. McKenzie finished with 15 points, four rebounds and three steals.
Trailing 35-22, Rider opened the second half on a 4-0 run, all four points by Bopp as the Broncs got to within nine with 18:18 left.
Niagara scored six of the next seven points to lead 41-27 with 17:16 left in the contest and a three-pointer by Purple Eagle Ali Morris made it 44-29, four minutes into the second half. Morris finished with 11 points, going three for three from beyond the arc.
Niagara (7-14, 4-5 MAAC) started the game on a 7-0 run before Bopp scored off an offensive rebound three minutes into the contest.
Trailing 9-2, Rider went on a 4-0 run, two points each by senior Sarah Homan (Upper Darby, Pa./Delco Christian) and McKenzie as the Broncs cut the Purple Eagle lead to three, nine minutes into the game. Homan finished with five points, two rebounds and a block.
Niagara responded with a 6-0 run as the Purple Eagles went ahead 15-6 with eight minutes remaining in the opening half.
Junior Carleigh Brown (Philadelphia, Pa./Nazareth Academy) scored on a three-point play and Bopp also had a three-point play as the Broncs got to within 21-16 with five minutes left in the opening half. C. Brown had six points in 31 minutes of play.
Leading 21-16, Niagara went on a 14-6 run, four points by Meghan McGuinness and three points by Kayla Stroman as the Purple Eagles led 35-22 at intermission. Stroman had 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds with McGuinness adding a career-high 13 points to go along with four rebounds.
"Stroman is a terrific player," Milligan said. "She probably comes off the high ball screen as well as anyone in the conference."
Also for Rider, freshman Emily Fazzini (Wayne, Pa./Archbishop Carroll) had eight points, four rebounds (three on the offensive glass) to go along with two assists, a block and a steal in 33 minutes. Fazzini has started all 20 games for the Broncs this season.
Senior Alyssa Parsons (Ivyland, Pa./Archbishop Wood) had four assists and two steals for the Broncs.
The game was Kid's Day at Niagara with 1,900 in attendance. The program from the NCAA encourages schools to center a women's basketball game around a field trip for kids (elementary and middle school) to visit a college campus and participate in several activities including the game.
Today was the 34th meeting between Niagara and Rider in women's basketball with Rider winning 15 times. Rider defeated Niagara in Lawrenceville 60-53 on January 4 and the Broncs won at Niagara in 2010-11, 79-73 in triple overtime.
The Broncs are playing without several key players including three-point threat, senior Ali Heller (Boca Raton, Fla./St. Andrews) who tore an ACL at Iona in early January and is expected to be lost for the season.
Rider was held to one three-point field goal in the game (on seven attempts), compared to Niagara which shot 50 percent (7 for 14) from long distance.
"We are a different team right now," Milligan said about her squad that won five in a row during December and have currently lost five straight. "We are looking to find our identity again. We're going to continue to battle and figure things out. We are leaning on everyone, there isn't going to be just one person that is going to carry us."
The Purple Eagles out-shot Rider 49 percent to 35 percent and out-rebounded the Broncs 38-30.
Each team had 17 turnovers.
Rider stays in Western, New York to face Canisius in a MAAC game at noon on Sunday.