The Binghamton women’s basketball team had an answer for each of MyNeshia McKenzie’s 25 points and 19 rebounds through regulation on Saturday afternoon. In overtime, however, McKenzie and Rider capitalized on their opportunities and sent the Bearcats (1-9) back to Binghamton without a win.
McKenzie, a senior forward, finished with 27 points and 20 rebounds, both career highs, as she put Rider ahead for good with a layup with about four minutes left in overtime. The Bearcats missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer, and Rider took the contest, 66-63.
“[McKenzie’s] a good player — very athletic and knows her role on her team,” BU head coach Nicole Scholl said. “And she’s one of those types of players that if you’re not paying attention to her, if you’re not boxing her out, she’s going to get some easy ones. I thought there were times when we played her well, and I thought other times we just gave her too many easy, open looks.”
Less than one minute into the second half, McKenzie freed herself under the hoop and converted a layup to tie the game at 28-28. The Bearcats had led, 28-23, at the break, but sophomore guard Mikal Johnson buried a 3-pointer on Rider’s first possession out of the locker room, and McKenzie followed suit with her bucket.
“We talk a lot about putting two halves together, and I thought we just came out a little bit sluggish in the beginning of the second,” Scholl said.
But near the midway point of the second half, the Bearcats embarked on a 15-4 spurt to take a 51-43 lead with 7:45 left in regulation. Senior forward Julia Barac highlighted the run with six points.
But the Broncs countered with a 9-1 surge of their own, capped by a 3-pointer from freshman guard Stephanie Mason.
After McKenzie put Rider up, 58-56, by sinking a pair of free throws with 11.9 seconds remaining, senior guard Vaneeshia Paulk got inside and converted a layup to tie the game at 58-58.
In overtime, Rider never trailed as McKenzie grabbed a rebound on one end of the floor and knocked down a basket on the other to put her team up, 60-58.
With one second remaining and the score at 66-63, BU senior guard Stephanie Jensen managed to get off a desperation 3-pointer, but Scholl said it wasn’t the clean look she was hoping for.
“It was a triple screen that we ran for [Jensen] to try and get her a shot,” she said. “Rider’s defense was pretty good. They switched out on everything and were able to get a hand in her face, and unfortunately we didn’t get a clean shot off.”
The Bearcats didn’t score from the field in the extra period, and only managed to make three free throws.
McKenzie’s huge stat line stole the spotlight from Barac’s career day. The forward finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
“[Barac] is playing well right now. She’s come in and taken advantage of the time she’s getting, and she keeps improving with each practice,” Scholl said. “With her frame, at 6’2”, I think she’s been helpful on the defensive end and she has the ability to knock down shots, and I think she’s gaining a lot of confidence right now.”
Paulk contributed 15 points and has now scored in double figures in three consecutive games.
Sophomore guard Kandace Newry added 11 points for BU, while Johnson chipped in with 16 points for Rider.
After a 26-point loss to Princeton on Dec. 11, Scholl said Saturday’s effort was a step in the right direction.
“I think we’re still really continuing to improve,” she said. “I see shades of things that we’re getting better at each and every game, and it’s been a while since we’ve been in a tight game like this, let alone an overtime game. So I think just the experience, in and of itself, I think we can really take a lot from this and we’ll learn from it.”
Next up for the Bearcats is a matchup at Siena on Dec. 21. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. from Times Union Center.