By Rob Rose
Despite a 5-0 start to conference play, the men’s basketball team went 0-5 in its last five contests and fell from No. 1 in the MAAC standings to the fifth spot after a five-game losing streak.
Rider lost to Canisius on Feb. 8, 81-80, and Siena, 59-57, before it lost a crucial road game at Quinnipiac, 98-88, on Feb. 12, The five losses were by a combined 24 points.
“This defines people, when you’re struggling, because you’re going to let it take you down or you’re going to stand up to it and keep fighting. And we’re going to keep fighting,” said junior center Tyere Marshall.
Up by four with 1:01 left on the clock, Jordan caught a pass in front of the Rider bench and drained a three-pointer to put Rider ahead by seven, but Quinnipiac didn’t go down without a fight.
The Bobcats hit a trio of three-pointers in the final 45 seconds of the game and after Vaughn missed a free throw up three with nine seconds left, Quinnipiacs’s Jacob Rigoni drew a foul while he attempted a three-pointer and had a chance to tie the game with 1.5 seconds left.
Rigoni hit all three foul shots and sent the game to overtime tied, 81-81.
Quinnipiac rode the momentum from its unlikely comeback and scored the first 10 points of overtime and controlled the entire period.
Following a pair of disappointing road losses, Rider returned home to face Canisius in a nationally televised battle on ESPNU on Feb. 8. The Alumni Gym crowd was raucous throughout the game, but the Broncs failed to take advantage.
After it scored 10 points in the first 10 minutes of the game and trailed by as many as 13 points, Rider went 8-for-9 from the field to cut Canisius’ lead to two at the break.
In the second half, sophomore forward Frederick Scott scored 12 of his 14 points as the Broncs took its first lead shortly after halftime. The teams traded baskets in a back-and-forth contest.
Sophomore forward Dimencio Vaughn, a 70 percent free-throw shooter, stepped to the foul line with 20 seconds left and Rider up, 80-78. Two made free throws would have given the Broncs a two-possession lead, but Vaughn missed both and Canisius’ Jonathan Sanks drilled the game-winning three-pointer on the following possession.
Free-throw shooting had been an issue all season for the Broncs, who ranked No. 343 of 351 Division I teams in free-throw percentage.
“I don’t know what to do for them,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “I have no idea. Just go up with confidence and make [free throws.] That’s all I know from when I played. Just go up and make them.”
Coming off three-straight losses and its first home loss in 18 games, Rider took on Siena. In the Preseason MAAC poll, Rider was selected as the No. 1 team while Siena was voted to finish last, but the Feb. 10 matchup showed why the games aren’t played on paper.
The Broncs got off to another slow start, but were able to trim the deficit to 33-32 at halftime after junior center Tyere Marshall scored eight points in the final three minutes of the first half.
After Siena took a five-point lead with eight minutes left, Rider stormed back and tied the game on a run fueled by a behind-the-back layup by Vaughn which got the Alumni Gym crowd on its feet.
With two minutes left, after a missed three-pointer by junior guard Ahmad Gilbert, Scott was called for a foul as he dove for a loose ball and sent Siena’s Manny Camper to the free-throw line.
Camper hit one foul shot and on the ensuing possession, Scott had the ball at the top of the key and attempted to drive to the net, but missed his shot and a putback chance by junior guard Stevie Jordan was off the mark.
After a free throw by Siena’s Kadeem Smith, Jordan raced down the court with four seconds left and found sophomore guard Jordan Allen who launched a deep three-pointer that went wide and pushed the losing-streak to four games.
Rider returns home to take on Monmouth on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. The game can be streamed on ESPN3.
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