By Rob Rose
Following a loss in its season-opener, the men’s basketball team destroyed its next two opponents by 20 points in each game. Rider defeated Coppin State, 87-67, on Nov. 19 before an 89-65 blowout of Wagner on Nov. 24.
After he scored five points in the season-opener, less than half of the 13.4 points per game he averaged last season, sophomore guard Jordan Allen got his shooting stroke back against Coppin State.
The sharpshooter poured in 18 points and connected four times from beyond the arc in addition to four rebounds and a block. He brought the crowd to its feet when he completed a four-point play after being fouled on a three-pointer.
“I feel like I am the Energizer Bunny,” said Allen. “Once everyone sees [his shots] going in, they know how excited I get, and they should keep going in.”
Allen finished last season with 92 three-pointers, third-most in program history behind Jerry Johnson (102) and Ron Simpson (98). He was also named to the All-MAAC Third Team and All-MAAC Rookie Team last season.
Rider improved to 13-1 in the Alumni Gymnasium over the last two years with the victory. The Broncs also had some of their highest offensive showings at home, with five 90-point performances and a 100-point outburst in Lawrenceville, New Jersey last year.
“We feed off of our crowd,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett of Rider’s success on its home court. “[The fans] do a good job and we just want them to continue to come out and support these guys.”
Preseason First Team All-MAAC sophomore forward Dimencio Vaughn struggled to score from the field early, but made his mark at the free-throw line. Vaughn finished the contest 6-for-12 from the field and 6-for-8 on foul shots, for a team-high 19 points.
The first four minutes of the game were controlled by Coppin State until a 12-0 run over the next five minutes by Rider fueled its first lead. After a offensive spurt by the Eagles toward the close of the first half trimmed the deficit, the Broncs lead ballooned to 20 early in half number two.
The Broncs’ depth in the backcourt allowed them to keep their players rested, but also wreak havoc on the opposition. On each made basket, Rider unleashed its full-court press and gave the Coppin State ball handlers nightmares. The Broncs forced 20 Eagles turnovers and swiped nine steals in the contest.
“We want to press so we can play a lot of guys,” said Baggett. “Hopefully our guys will play as hard as they can for as long as they can and then substitute another one of the guys off the bench.”
Ten of the 12 players who entered the game scored for Rider. Junior guard Kimar Williams ran the second unit for the Broncs and scored six points with six assists in 26 minutes.
Fellow transfer junior guard Ahmad Gilbert was limited to eight minutes and sat out the first half due to a violation of team rules.
“I am still trying to figure it out,” said Baggett. “The depth is there, it’s just a matter of trying to figure it out.”
2017-18 MAAC Sixth Player of the Year sophomore forward Frederick Scott continued to excel in his role off the bench.
Scott hit once from beyond the arc en route to a nine-point, seven-rebound night and a near double-double.
Against Wagner, Allen energized Rider once again. The guard scored a team-high 24 points and made six three-pointers, one shy of his career-high seven three-pointers against Monmouth on Jan. 29.
Vaughn had another 19-point performance in the victory, including a trio of three-pointers and seven rebounds.
Born in New York, New York, Vaughn had his own fan section during the game in Staten Island, New York, which is 40 minutes from his hometown.
“It’s always good to have family there,” said Vaughn. “But they can’t change the way I play. I [have to] stay to myself and play as I usually do every game.”
After he averaged 19 points and shot 57.1 percent from the field in the two wins, Vaughn was named MAAC Player of the Week on Nov. 26. Vaughn earned the award for the third time in two seasons.
Junior guard Stevie Jordan dished out 10 assists in the contest and moved inside of the top 10 of all-time leaders in assists in program history. Jordan is now ninth all-time in Rider history with 364 assists after he passed Mark Wilcox who had 360 during his career.
Jordan, who led the MAAC in assists per game in each of his two seasons at Rider, averaged seven assists through the Broncs’ first three games.
The junior guard was eight assists shy of the No. 8 all-time leader in assists, Jonathon Thompson, with 372.
Rider’s next game was on the road against West Virginia at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 28. The Mountaineers began the season ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25.
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