Rider tops Jaspers; first-place Iona in sights

By Carlos Toro

The women’s basketball team was in the driver’s seat on Feb. 1 on the road when it defeated Manhattan (5-16, 4-8 MAAC) 73-56 in Riverdale, N.Y. The Broncs held the lead for the majority of the contest.

Starting the game on the wrong side of a 7-0 run, the Broncs (10-11, 6-6 MAAC) quickly responded with a 7-0 run of their own. The first half was mostly a back-and-forth battle between the two teams. The game featured seven lead changes in the first 15 minutes.

With five minutes remaining in the first half and the Broncs down by one, Rider sophomore guard Mikal Johnson made a layup that would jump-start an 11-2 run to close the half. Johnson would finish with 12 points and three blocks.

Once the second half began, the Broncs continued to ride the momentum from the first half and never looked back, gradually increasing their lead for the remainder of the game.

“We put together a good 40 minutes of basketball and stayed together; everyone did their part, which is exactly what we need for our team to win,” junior guard Kornelija Valiuskyte said. “We also played good defense, which resulted in some easy transition points and also got Manhattan out of their offense.”

Senior guard MyNeshia McKenzie finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for her 38th career double-double. Graduate guard Shereen Lightbourne finished the game with 12 points and junior guard Lashay Banks had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Head Coach Lynn Milligan was pleased with a conference victory on the road.

“It’s February, so we want to be playing our best,” Milligan said. “The Manhattan game was a step in that direction. Road wins are tough in the MAAC.”

The Broncs have not won consecutive games since defeating Monmouth and St. Peter’s at the beginning of January. They will have a chance to stop the drought against Iona (19-2, 12-0 MAAC) who is riding an 18-game win streak since Nov. 15. The Broncs will then battle Niagara (7-14, 5-7 MAAC) on Feb. 9 in Alumni Gym.

Valiuskyte looks forward to the high level of competition the Broncs will face against the Gaels.

“Iona is a great team and it’s going to be a great battle,” Valiuskyte said. “Our goal is to protect our home court and we will do our best to do that.”

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