Broncs extend win streak to six games

By Richard Saile

As Rider men’s basketball nears the end of its regular season, the Broncs were able to add two more wins, defeating Niagara 78-74 on March 1 and Canisius 65-61 on March 3.

The pair of victories moved Rider to 11-8 in conference play, good enough for the fifth seed in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Knocking off Niagara

On March 1, Rider men’s basketball traveled up to New York to take on the Niagara Purple Eagles. The Broncs aimed to avenge their previous loss against Niagara, that game ending with a score of 78-74. 

Senior forward Mervin James and graduate student guard T.J. Weeks combined for eight of the first 11 points for the Broncs, but the Purple Eagles charged the Broncs’ defense as they held a two-point lead and controlled the paint the first 10 minutes. 

The Broncs stayed close with the Purple Eagles as they attacked the paint. Senior forward Tariq Ingraham made two layups off of two offensive rebounds. 

Niagara answered with a 13-4 run, one of Niagara’s leading players throwing down two dunks and making a 3-pointer at the top of the arc. 

Just when the game started to feel like it was slipping away before the half, the Broncs built up a 10-1 run led by junior forward JT Langston, who scored 6 of the final 10 first-half points as the Broncs took the lead at halftime 31-28. 

Coming out of the locker room both teams got buckets in the paint with a few baskets made outside the free-throw line. The Broncs were led by James, who helped prevent the Purple Eagles from taking back the lead, as he scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half. 

Niagara cut the Broncs’ lead to within a bucket with 3:33 left in the game, but James scored 14 of Rider’s final 18 points that would seal the win for the Broncs’ 71-61. The Broncs extended their win streak to five games. 

“We’ve got guys coming off the bench contributing. The starters are all playing together and sharing the ball,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett said after the win. We’re just playing team basketball on both ends.” 

Closing out Canisius 

On March 3, Rider aimed for a sweep of New York MAAC rivals when they traveled to Buffalo, New York, to take on the Canisius Golden Griffins. 

The Broncs started the game attacking all levels of the court with Ingraham and James each making a layup, Weeks making a 3-pointer from the left corner, and senior guard Corey McKeithan making a mid-range jumper. Weeks had eight points in the first seven minutes for the Broncs to help them stay with the Griffins, with both teams exchanging buckets back and forth. 

James had 10 of the Broncs’ 17 points scored in the final 10 minutes of the first half. The Broncs led by nine points, but Canisius got off a buzzer-beating 3-point shot from the right wing to close the Broncs’ lead to 6 going into the locker room. The Broncs led 34-28 at halftime. 

Coming out of the locker room, Canisius scored 19 points in almost seven minutes. The Griffins regained the lead after a free throw followed by a jumper to give the Griffins a three-point lead with 11:31 remaining in the game. 

With their backs against the wall, the Broncs rallied back with a 14-4 run of their own, consisting of 3-pointers by senior guard Allen Powell and Weeks, a pair of free throws by both Weeks and McKeithan, and layups by Langston and sophomore forward Anthony McCall. 

In the last five minutes of the game, James was able to make a layup and a pair of free throws to seal the win for the Broncs over the Griffins 65-61 for their sixth straight win. 

“I feel like we have gotten better at holding the lead,” said Weeks after the win.  “Earlier in the year when the other team made a run we would just get down on ourselves and end up losing the game.”

Baggett said, “We still make some bonehead mistakes still, but we find a way to figure it out in time for us to still prevail with the win. These guys have been through a lot. They’re playing together and you can see where the experience really helps.”

With this win the Broncs are seeded fifth in the MAAC, a half-game back from Marist for the fourth seed and a half-game up on Niagara, who is the sixth seed. 

The Broncs will close out regular-season play when they host the Saint Peter’s Peacocks on March 7 at Alumni Gym. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN+ and tipoff is scheduled at 8 p.m.

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