By Corey Donetz
The men’s basketball team (1-1) lost its second consecutive 6 a.m. loss during ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon to Stony Brook (3-0). Despite a late rally, Rider lost 54-46. The Broncs will enjoy one more home game against familiar foe Monmouth (1-1) on Saturday at 3 p.m., followed by their first test on the road as the team takes on the Gamecocks of the University of South Carolina (2-0) on Monday.
Rider came out of the gate fairly strong. Senior guard Jon Thompson put the first points on the board with a steal that led to a dunk. It was a back and forth battle until Rider gained a 17-11 lead about halfway into the first half. However, it was almost 10 minutes until the Broncs scored again as Stony Brook went on a 17-0 run. Scoring was a problem all morning for Rider.
“My biggest concern was our scoring in the post,” junior forward Daniel Stewart said. “We were unable to do so and we didn’t make our free throws. We needed to dominate the paint and get to the line a lot, but we didn’t.”
Stewart had five points and seven rebounds in the loss. Rider shot 16-52 from the field (29.6 percent), thanks in part to Stewart and sophomore center Junior Fortunat, who shot a combined 2-13 (15.4 percent).
“I didn’t play well at all,” Stewart said. “I had a lot of opportunities to score and I was unable to.”
Junior guard Nurideen Lindsey led the way for Rider with 17 points. Thompson added eight points and five assists. Junior guard Anthony Myles added 14 points.
The team has asked for quality minutes out of its many freshmen, as expected. Freshmen guard Zedric Sadler and forward Shawn Valentine have led the way for the class, each averaging double-digit minutes in the early goings.
“My first couple of games have been good,” Sadler said. “The loss hurt, but it’s not a terrible loss. We’re just trying to figure it out, but when we do it’s going to be scary.”
Although it didn’t show up in the box score, the freshmen played fairly well in the loss, according to Stewart. Rider will need more from them going forward, as well as from the bench in general, which only scored two points against Stony Brook.
“Our freshmen are doing OK,” Stewart said. “They still have a lot to learn; you guys haven’t seen much of them. But as the season goes on and they start to understand, they should get more time.”
The Broncs will be back on the court on Saturday as Alumni Gym will host its third straight home game against the Hawks of Monmouth. The defense displayed in the first two games has certainly improved from last year’s team, but there is still much to work on, according to Stewart.
“We have to keep getting better defensively,” Stewart said. “We’re doing a good job and by the end of the year we want to be one of the top defensive teams. We also need to play hard all the time, not just in spurts. If we do that, then we will be a team that teams watch out for.”
Monmouth comes in with a growing reputation of a team that plays hard for all 40 minutes. Monmouth will come to Rider following a loss to Notre Dame, which is ranked 20th in the nation.
“Our key to beating Monmouth is our defense,” Stewart added. “It’ll be key the whole year because our defense drives us so that’s the focus.”
Monmouth is led by a pair of sophomore guards in the backcourt, Andrew Nicholas and Dion Nesmith, and senior Ed Waite in the frontcourt. Nicholas had a career high 28 points in Monmouth’s 91-62 victory against Hofstra in the team’s first game.
Along with defense, the Broncs will need to play better on offense after their performance Tuesday morning.
“We are a better team when everybody is scoring and getting a feel for the game, then that turns into defense,” Sadler said.
Rider will also play in the Hoops for Hope tournament game on the road against South Carolina. The tournament helps support the National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation.
“It will be difficult to win on the road; it always is,” Stewart acknowledged. “If we play to our capabilities, do the things we are supposed to do, and focus on the scouting report when we are at practice we should be able to hold our own and hopefully come out on top.”
South Carolina won its first game of the season in overtime, with strong showings from transfer senior guard LaShay Page and freshman forward Michael Carrera. Page had 19 points while Carrera had 17 points and 15 rebounds.
“To beat South Carolina we just have to play hard on both ends of the floor,” Stewart said. “That’s our first test on the road and it should be a hostile environment. We will face adversity and this will test us as a team and how we handle that adversity on the road.”
Limiting South Carolina’s offensive rebounding is crucial for the Broncs as there has been a lot of miscommunication on both the defensive and offensive glass thus far. It will be a tough game for Rider regardless but the Broncs aren’t concerned about the task in front of them.
“We are not worried,” Zadler said. “We have a great team and this season’s going to be a great one. We’re hungry for a bounce back.”
The Broncs will continue Hoops for Hope play on Wednesday against Southern Methodist, next Friday against Jacksonville and Nov. 25 against UW-Milwaukee.