Broncs win the weekend, earn historic win

By Richard Saile

Rider men’s basketball finds itself deep within Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference competition, needing all the wins it can get. 

Rider did just that this weekend as they took down the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers in a nail-biter, 61-57 and the Manhattan College Jaspers in a historic beat down, 104-62.

Freshmen lead comeback

On Feb. 16, Rider hosted the Mountaineers, hoping to avoid a four-game losing streak.

The Broncs started the game off strong for the first couple of minutes with senior guard Allen Powell hitting a pair of 3-pointers and senior forward Mervin James providing another, but the Mountaineers hung around in the early minutes of the game.

With the Broncs up three in the first 10 minutes of action, the Mountaineers got rolling on both ends of the court as they went on a 16-3 run. They went up 26-16 with just under three minutes left in the half.

Senior guard Corey McKeithan had the only bucket for the Broncs during the Mountaineers’ 16-3 run with a 3-pointer, as the crowd in Alumni Gym jumped to its feet. The Broncs got points before halftime thanks to a 3-pointer by James and a layup by freshman forward Ife West-Ingram to cut the Mountaineers’ lead to five at halftime. 

The Broncs entered the second half flat as Mount St. Mary’s opened on a 12-4 run that increased the deficit to 13. Rider was searching for answers as it crawled its way back in the game with senior forward Tariq Ingraham making a layup while fouled and three free throws on back-to-back possessions.

The Broncs’ bench erupted and the crowd of Alumni Gym roared as the deficit shrunk down to eight. Freshman guard DJ Dudley helped the Broncs attack the Mountaineers’ defense by scoring twice and splashing home a pair of free throws to cut the Broncs’ deficit to two with less than eight minutes to play. 

Rider kept its foot on the gas by attacking the paint and getting to the free-throw line, with Dudley and Ingraham making free throws to cut the Mountaineers’ lead to just one point. Freshman guard Ruben Rodriguez hit a jumper to help the Broncs retake the lead and put them up a point with less than six minutes left in the game. 

The Broncs’ lead increased to five with a pair of layups from Dudley and Ingraham, but the Mountaineers did not leave without a fight. Mount Saint Mary’s answered with a 3-pointer to go up 57-55 with 52 seconds left in the game.

Powell attacked the paint and got to the free throw line, making a pair of shots to tie the game at 57 apiece. On the next possession, Rodriguez stole the ball from Mount St. Mary’s and made a free throw to give the Broncs a one-point lead with 23 seconds left.

Rider’s defense swarmed the Mountaineers on back-to-back possessions as Ingraham and James made the winning free throws to help the Broncs survive a scare at home and win 61-57. 

“This one felt good,” Dudley said after the game. “We almost lost it after a turnover at the end, but we made it up … so it was good to get this win after trailing.” 

Manhattan masterpiece

Building off its close win against the Mountaineers, Rider traveled to New York to take on the Jaspers. The Broncs started the game with graduate student guard T.J. Weeks being fouled on a made 3-pointer and sinking the free throw to open the game with a 4-point play.

Rider didn’t hold back on the Jaspers as they opened with a 17-2 run in the first six minutes. Their offense continued to overwhelm the Jaspers’ defense as Manhattan was not able to defend any spot on the court.

The Jaspers eventually answered with seven points, attacking the Broncs’ defense with a jumper, a 3-pointer and a dunk in a span of two minutes. The Broncs continued to heat up with jumpers both inside and beyond the arc as they increased the lead to 23. Rider went into the locker room with a 50-26 halftime lead and having success on both ends of the court.

The Broncs started to heat up again, led by senior forward Mervin James scoring seven points including a 3-pointer to increase their lead to 29. Rider went on an 18-2 run that lasted four minutes and increased their lead by 35 with 11 minutes left and never looked back as the Broncs manhandled Manhattan 104-62 to win their second straight game. 

“I just saw it down the stretch in the last game. Start playing better, some guys off the bench started playing together and just, you’re starting to see the fruits of your labor, so to speak. Some of the guys who hadn’t been playing are starting to play and have gotten better. It’s great to see,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett said after the win. 

The Broncs shot 77.8% from the floor, the highest percentage for any team against another Division I opponent since 2005. 

With the win, Baggett earned his 187th win and moved into a tie for second all-time in career wins with Rider hall of fame coach Thomas Leyden.

The Broncs return on Feb. 23 to host Iona, broadcast on ESPN+ at 7 p.m.

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