By Matt Burrill
Following a tough 65-54 loss to Delaware (6-1), on Nov. 24, the Broncs (2-4) took a trip down to Maryland to participate in the 21st annual Navy Classic. The tournament also featured UMBC (1-7), Brown (3-3), and Navy (6-2).
The team earned a victory in the first round, defeating UMBC, 60-48. The game itself, however, started with the Broncs down 26-20 at the end of the first half.
Rider outscored UMBC 40-22 in the second half, setting up the victory. The win was capped off with a 9-0 Bronc run that included contributions from freshman guard Stephanie Mason and senior guard MyNeshia McKenzie, who contributed four points each. The Broncs also converted five of six free throws in the final two minutes.
Despite scoring a season low nine points in the contest, McKenzie was able to contribute on the glass, snagging 12 total rebounds with five coming on the offensive end. The effort moved McKenzie into third place on Rider’s all-time rebounding list with 854.
Following the first round victory over UMBC, the Broncs would go on to face the host team, Navy, in the championship game. The Broncs came up short, falling 75-64. Despite losing the game, the team did show some positive signs, particularly the play of sophomore Mikal Johnson, who scored a career-high 20 points in the game, nine from beyond the arc.
“I felt really comfortable coming off of screens to shoot,” Johnson said. “My teammates got me open for great shots and I wanted to step up to make them.”
Johnson has had success from the three-point line this season, leading the team with 14 field goals.
McKenzie also had a decent showing in the contest, scoring 16 points. She was able to move up to the 12th overall on Rider’s all-time scoring list with 1,120 points.
“MyNeshia wants so badly to score for her team,” Head Coach Lynn Milligan said.
The Broncs, now 2-4 on the season, know there is room for improvement. With only two games remaining until the team begins its conference schedule, the Broncs will look to capitalize on a season that started slow.
“We tend to play down to competition instead of making runs on teams early,” Johnson said. “We have the ability to take over at the start of every game, but we tend to hold ourselves back from that until the second half.”
After a two-week break in their schedule, the Broncs will host Binghamton (1-5) on Dec. 14 for a 1 p.m. showdown. Johnson welcomes the extra rest to help the Broncs better prepare for their next game.
“This is a huge advantage for us because we have a lot of time to perfect our game and focus on dominating our next opponents,” Johnson said.