By Rob Rose
Fueled by lights-out three-point shooting and tenacious defense, the men’s basketball team erased a 16-point deficit to defeat Marist, 86-85, on Jan. 27.
“What a comeback,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “We’re just fortunate to find another way to win today. We make life interesting, yet these guys never quit.”
Although he missed his first seven shots, sophomore guard Jordan Allen continued to hunt for his opportunities and came through with a pair of crucial three-pointers. Alen connected twice from deep to fuel a Rider run that brought them all way back from down 16. In total, Allen hit four times from beyond the arc, and posted 14 points and two assists.
“Once you get one, you know the crowd is going to feed off it,” said Allen. “You hear little kids screaming, grandmas screaming, everyone is screaming for us.”
Not to be outdone by his backcourt mate, junior guard Stevie Jordan tied the game on a three-pointer with 8:58 left in the second half that sent the Alumni Gym crowd into a frenzy. Jordan led the Broncs with 18 points and added five rebounds, four steals and three assists.
After the teams traded baskets over the next five minutes, Marist cut the Rider advantage to two before graduate student guard Anthony Durham hit a pair of free throws. Jordan then fouled Marist’s Darius Hines with 17 seconds left, and Hines hit both free throws.
Durham headed back to the foul line with 9.8 seconds remaining and stepped up to knock down a pair once again. But Marist’s Brian Parker answered with a three-pointer to trim Rider’s lead to one with 2.5 seconds left.
With 0.6 seconds on clock Jordan was fouled after a creative in-bounds play by Rider that had Jordan pass the ball to Allen who was also out of bounds, which freed up Jordan and ran almost two second off the clock.
Jordan missed the first foul shot before intentionally missing the second, so the ball would deflect off a Marist player and start the clock, which caused the final 0.6 seconds to expire.
Junior forward Devine Eke was called on to provide defense and spark the Broncs’ comeback when the team was struggling to get stops. Eke’s influence in the contest was much bigger than the five points, three blocks, three assists, two rebounds and a steal would suggest with a quick look at the box score.
“This is my time to shine, this is what I do,” said Eke. “I play defense, I can get everyone in [the game].”
Three-point shooting played a major role in the first half. After it scored its first nine points from beyond the arc on a trio of three-pointers, Rider missed its next 10 attempts from deep.
Meanwhile, Marist hit eight times from three-point range in the first half and denied Rider’s attempts to cut into the lead. Ryan Funk hit seven three-pointers of his own for the Red Foxes in the game, on the way to his 32 points.
Once again the Broncs stumbled out of the gates. Including their 10-point deficit at halftime, the Broncs increased their first-half point differential mark to -37. In three of its previous six MAAC games, Rider trailed or was tied at the half, but achieved a 5-1 record over that span.
“It starts with energy, we don’t play with a lot of energy,” said Baggett.
By comparison, Rider was +80 in second halves over its first seven MAAC games and erased double-digit deficits in four of those seven games, and won three of the four games where they trailed by more than 10.
Foul trouble and an injury contributed to the lack of offense in the first half for the Broncs. Jordan, sophomore forward Dimencio Vaughn and Durham picked up two fouls before the break and were stuck on the bench for parts of the first half.
Allen briefly left the game due to a lower-right leg injury, but returned. Vaughn picked up two fouls within the first two minutes of the second half and was forced to sit until the 6:02 mark.
Six Broncs scored in double figures for the second time in the last four games. In addition to Jordan’s 18 and Allen’s 14, junior forward Frederick Scott had 15, Vaughn had 12 and junior center Tyere Marshall and Durham each chipped in 10 points, respectively.
Rider will put its 15-game home win streak on the line in its next contest against St. Peter’s on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.
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