Second-half surge sends West Virginia past Rider

By Rob Rose

Despite a strong start and a first half lead, the men’s basketball team’s upset bid was denied in a 92-78 loss against West Virginia on Nov. 28.

An 11-3 run to open the second half expanded the Mountaineers lead to 15 with 15 minutes left in the game. West Virginia held a double-digit advantage for a majority of the half as its lead ballooned to as high as 19.

The Broncs led for over 10 minutes in the first half, with their largest advantage at seven. Rider also was ahead for the first 18 minutes of its season-opener against the American Athletic Conference preseason favorite Central Florida, before a surge by the Knights led them to the victory.

“We have to play hard all 40 minutes,” said sophomore forward Frederick Scott. “If we didn’t have any layoffs, I feel like we would’ve been in a better predicament at the end of the game.”

The contest got heated at times and the Broncs struggled to keep their composure. Head Coach Kevin Baggett, sophomore guard Stevie Jordan and junior center Tyere Marshall received technical fouls, while graduate student guard Anthony Durham was called for a flagrant foul after he grabbed the ankle of West Virginia’s Esa Ahmad and tripped him.

“Things got a little chippy on both ends,” said Baggett. “It wasn’t just our guys, it was their guys promoting it too, but we have to be the bigger team and walk away from those things.”

The teams played a back-and-forth first half which saw three lead changes and each squad reel off spurts on offense. Rider opened the game on a 6-0 run before West Virginia countered with an 8-0 outburst of its own.

Both sides made 30 shots in the contest, but West Virginia held the advantage in three-pointers with 11 to Rider’s eight. The Mountaineers were also 21-for-33 from the foul line, compared to the Broncs’ 10-for-16 performance.

Scott led the Broncs in scoring with 17 points for the first time this season. Last year’s MAAC Sixth Player of the Year hit once from beyond the arc and added six rebounds.

“I just try to be there for my teammates and play my role,” said Scott.

West Virginia is known as “Press Virginia” due to its ability to cause turnovers against opponents with its full-court press. The Mountaineers scored 23 points off 15 Bronc turnovers in the contest.

Rider had found success with its own full-court press early in the season, with 20 turnovers forced in each of its previous two games. The Broncs forced 14 turnovers and had nine steals which they converted into 14 points.

Sophomore forward and reigning MAAC Player of the Week Dimencio Vaughn struggled in the loss. He was 4-for-11 from the field for 11 points, but added eight rebounds and three assists. Vaughn had averaged 17.3 points per game in Rider’s first three matchups.

Rider had five players score in double figures during the game. Vaughn, Scott, Jordan, Durham and junior guard Jordan Allen had 11, 17, 13, 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Mountaineers opened the season as the No. 13 team in the Associated Press Top 25 before upset losses to Buffalo and Western Kentucky dropped them from the rankings. West Virginia defeated MAAC-opponent Monmouth, 71-58, on Nov. 15. Head Coach Bob Huggins used his fifth starting lineup in the team’s first six games against Rider.

The contest was the fourth meeting between the programs. Rider won the first meeting in the 1929-30 season before West Virginia secured back-to-back victories in the 1977-78 and 1978-79 campaigns.

Rider’s next game was its third-straight road contest. The Broncs headed back to New York for a 4 p.m. meeting with Hofstra on Dec. 8.

Follow Rob Rose on Twitter.

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