By Benjamin Shinault
Rider men’s basketball’s season kept moving along as winter break came and went. With the student body returning to campus and filling the seats of Alumni Gym once again, Rider’s record sits at 7-13 and its in-conference record settles in at 4-5, one game below .500.
With preseason expectations of finishing atop the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Broncs have their work cut out for them heading into the winter months ahead with 11 games remaining in the regular season.
As of Jan. 28, the Broncs are slotted in at seventh place in the MAAC and have struggled with defending the hoop, ranking ninth in the conference in points allowed per game. Rider has also struggled with shooting the ball from the field, sitting at eighth in the conference in FG%.
With the Broncs in the middle of MAAC play and finally bringing their tough out-of-conference schedule to an end, they finished the gauntlet as they faced Penn State, nationally ranked Marquette and Nebraska.
In its loss against Marist on Jan. 14, Rider was shut down, 83-60. After the game, Head Coach Kevin Baggett didn’t hold back discussing his team’s effort against the Red Foxes.
“It was a lack of toughness, a lack of being able to keep the ball in front of guys that came off the bench and had no understanding or idea of what we were doing,” Baggett said to Rider Athletics after the loss. “It was definitely a major step back.” In the Jan. 19 game after the tough Marist loss, the Broncs lose again, this time to the Niagara Purple Eagles. It was a high-scoring affair but the Broncs would ultimately drop the game, 78-74.
“Too many broken assignments, our basketball IQs have got to get better,” Baggett said to Rider Athletics. “The things that we do in the game at key moments … not good, not good.”
King of the MAAC
One of the positive storylines that emerged for the Broncs so far this season has been senior forward Mervin James’ jump in production. In his already decorated statistical season, James was awarded MAAC Player of the Week on Dec. 26.
In the two games James played that week against Penn and Delaware, James averaged 22.5 points per game, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and three blocks all while shooting 56% from the field.
James was bestowed the honor once again on Jan. 29 after averaging 23 points and eight rebounds while shooting 46.9% from the field.
This season, James has scored 20 or more points in 10 games and has finished under 10 points in only two games. James was only able to score eight points against Marist on Jan. 14 and the Niagara on Jan. 19.
James leads the MAAC in scoring: he is sixth in rebounds and 10th in field goal percentage.
When it comes to team success, the Broncs worked on building upon their current winning streak of two games as they took down the Saint Peter’s Peacocks 62-57 on Jan. 25 and the Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers 66-62 on Jan. 27.
The Broncs are hungry for redemption and thirsty to get back to playing in front of their home fans.
The Broncs hit the floor on Feb. 2 when they take on Siena at home at 7 p.m.