Readers of this blog might remember that your hoopscribe picked the Rider women as a potential positive surprise team for this season, and the Broncs have made me look good so far.
Rider improved to 2-0 with a 63-43 win over Bucknell University on Sunday in Alumni Gymnasium. That came two days after a 64-56 victory over Lafayette.
It's the first 2-0 start by the program since the 1982-83 season.
Against Bucknell Rider got double-doubles from superlative sophomore swingperson MyNeshia McKenzie (16 points, 12 rebounds) and tough inside 6-3 junior center Caitlin Bopp (14 points, 10 rebounds).
"We truly 100 percent want to win," Bopp said, in a release issued by Rider's sports information office. "In previous years, we wanted to win but really didn't take the initiative to do it. I can honestly say to a player that we are all working together to win."
Trailing 38-34 three minutes into the second half against Bucknell, Rider went on a 27-1 run, nine points by senior Ali Heller as the Broncs opened up a 61-39 lead with 4:22 left in the game.
Heller finished with 14 points in the game, making four shots from three-point range. Last season, as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference 6th Player of the Year, Heller was 10th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage.
Rider held Bucknell to one field goal (1-for-21 shooting) and seven points in the second half and held the Bison without a three-point field goal in the game (0-for-8).
"I told the team in the locker room that I don't remember being more proud of a defensive effort in a half than I was today, in my 20-years of coaching," said Rider coach Kim Milligan. "We bought into a defensive adjustment in the second half and executed it perfectly. That level of perfection just doesn't happen. Holding a team to seven points is impressive."
Rider's bench out-scored the Bison 23-6.
"That means we finally have depth," Milligan said. "When you have Homan and Heller coming in off the bench and giving the team a spark, that's huge. They would be starting for most teams. Ali is about as confident you can be with her shot and Sarah came off a 20 point, nine rebound game Friday night. We have balance and players who understand their roles."
Rider tries to keep its early run going when it travels to the Palestra in Philadelphia on Saturday to face the Penn Quakers at 3:30pm.
"This is still just two wins," Milligan said. "We get to enjoy this until Monday at 3:15pm when we start preparing for Pennsylvania. We are getting right back at it and our eyes are forward onto that game. This is a long, long season and this is only second of many steps to come."