By Tom Regan
After a win at Manhattan on Feb. 1 brought Rider to an even 6-6 conference record, the team rallied for two more wins at home against Iona 92-90 (20-3, 13-1 MAAC), who was previously undefeated in MAAC play, and a resilient Niagara (7-16, 5-9 MAAC) 82-72.
The win against Iona on Feb. 6 came thanks in large part to senior guard MyNeshia McKenzie, who finished with a Rider record 37 points and 19 rebounds.
The Broncs (12-11, 8-6 MAAC), who were winning by a score of 80-77 with only 27 seconds left in regulation, saw Iona tie the game to force overtime. However, with 54 seconds left in overtime, sophomore guard Manon Pellet hit a jump-shot to bring Rider ahead 89-85, a lead the Broncs would not relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
Head Coach Lynn Milligan was impressed with the team’s win against the top seed in the MAAC, a game that she believed showcased the team’s potential.
“The Iona victory was a refuse-to-lose type of game,” Milligan said. “I think it showed what we are capable of when we believe in the process and each other.”
The win against Niagara came behind another great performance by McKenzie, who scored 20 points and 11 rebounds.
While Rider was winning for the entire game, it became much closer toward the end of the second half as Niagara came within one point. However, the Broncs were able to pull away and secure the victory.
The women now go on the road for a pair of rematches against third-place Fairfield (15-8, 10-4 MAAC) on Feb. 13 and first-place Iona on Feb. 16. Junior guard Kornelija Valiuskyte anticipates nothing but difficulty playing two of the top three teams in the MAAC on the road.
“Playing at Iona is always hard; it’s definitely going to be a war,” Valiuskyte said. “Beating both Fairfield and Iona would put us in a great place heading into the MAAC tournament.”