By Rob Rose
ALBANY, N.Y. — After a second half where Siena shot 81 percent from the field, the men’s basketball team was eliminated from the MAAC quarterfinals for the eighth straight season after an 87-81 loss on March 9.
“We always beat ourselves in the end,” said junior guard Stevie Jordan. “It comes down to us, the whole team.”
In the MAAC Preseason poll, Rider was picked to finish first, while Siena was projected to be the last place team in the MAAC. Despite a Broncs’ roster with four preseason All-MAAC players, it was the Saints who advanced to the conference semifinals.
“It doesn’t always come down to talent,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “It comes down to who executes, who plays smarter.”
Three-point shooting was the key to Siena’s victory, as the team shot 12-for-21 from beyond the arc and 6-for-7 in the second half. Despite the dominant scoring performance by the Saints, Rider hung in the game with its ability to control the glass.
Offensive rebounds kept Rider in the game as Siena continued to poor it on from beyond the arc. The No. 1 team in the MAAC in offensive rebounds per game this season at 12, Rider, won the battle on the offensive boards 17-2 over Siena and had 27 second-chance points.
With 5:16 left in the game, Rider led, 65-64, after a layup by junior center Tyere Marshall. A minute after, following a score by Siena’s Jalen Pickett, Marshall and Pickett were called for a double foul after a collision between the players. The Saints went on a 7-0 run over the next 30 seconds and increased their lead to eight.
“Our rotations just [were] a second late,” said Marshall. “They continued to knock down open shots and get open shots, based off our rotations.”
Rider battled back and cut the lead to four points after sophomore guard Jordan Allen hit three free throws, but Siena went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 30 seconds to win.
As the higher seed, Rider wore its home white uniforms, but this was far from a home game for the Broncs. In the final year the tournament will be held in Albany, New York, Siena’s fans packed the arena to cheer on their hometown Saints.
Siena opened the game shooting 6-for-7 in including five 3-pointers. Eight of the Saints’ first 10 shots were from beyond the arc, while the Broncs tried to pound the ball inside with eight of their 12 initial attempts in the paint.
Despite the strong start by Siena, Rider hung around and kept the game close. The Broncs took a 25-23 lead with five minutes left on a put-back layup by Jordan.
Jordan, named to the All-MAAC Second Team for the second straight season, did a little bit of everything for Rider in the first half. He had eight points and two assists, including a fancy feed to Marshall who assaulted the rim with a one-handed dunk.
At the half, Siena led, 30-29, after a failed attempt at a last shot by Rider. There were a total of eight fouls and four free-throws in the first half.
With a 2-for-12 performance on 3-pointers in the first half, Rider needed a big night from the 6-foot-9-inch Marshall around the rim. Before halftime, the Broncs outscored the Saints 18-6 on points in the paint and Marshall had 8 points.
Marshall finished the game with a team-high 22 points and eight rebounds.
Pickett, the 2019 MAAC Rookie of the Year, orchestrated Siena’s offense as he had all year. The freshman guard had 20 points and six assists in the contest and setup multiple 3-pointers for his teammates after he penetrated the Rider defense.
With the loss, Bagget’s record in the MAAC quarterfinals is now 0-7.
“I felt good about this [game] just as I did last year,” said Baggett. “It’s just one of those things where you just can’t get over the hump and get past the quarterfinals.”
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