By Rob Rose
After an up-and-down start to the campaign, the men’s basketball team closed the nonconference portion of its schedule with a 5-7 record, following a 90-79 defeat at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) on Dec. 30.
“We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to defend better,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “We’re giving up way too many points. I am like a broken record. We can score points, but we’ve got to be able to get stops.”
Rider trailed for all but 11 seconds in the game and VCU, who led by as much as 23 points, held a double-digit advantage for majority of the game and the entire second half.
Following a dominant first half by VCU, Rider trailed, 49-33, at halftime. With the loss, the Broncs fell to 0-7 in games where they trailed going into the locker room.
The Broncs’ best formula for victory this season had been to force opponents to commit turnovers and make three-point shots. Against VCU, Rider got a taste of its own medicine. The Rams forced 14 turnovers by the Broncs and connected 14 times from beyond the arc.
“We obviously didn’t defend well enough on the three-point line,” said Baggett. “Every time I thought we were getting back in the game, they would hit two [three-pointers] back-to-back, breaking our momentum.”
The Broncs were without Preseason All-MAAC First Team sophomore forward Dimencio Vaughn for the second-consecutive game. Vaughn exited the victory against Northern Colorado on Dec. 22 with an ankle injury and missed Rider’s previous contest, a loss to California State Northridge.
Sophomore forward Frederick Scott took Vaughn’s place in the starting lineup once again. Scott scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds against California State Northridge on Dec. 22 in Vaughn’s absence and scored 38 points during Rider’s last two games.
Scott scored 11 points, grabbed three rebounds and had two assists in the loss to the Rams. He had averaged 19 points and over seven rebounds in the final two games of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
After he did not play due to a coach’s decision versus California State Northridge, junior guard Stevie Jordan came off the bench against VCU, while junior guard Kimar Williams remained in the starting lineup.
Williams led the Broncs in minutes played with 34, scored 12 points and dished out four assists. Jordan played 32 minutes and stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“I called [Williams] over during the game and just told him I was proud of him,” said Baggett. “We’re finally starting to see him evolve into what we thought he would be for our team.”
Sophomore guard Jordan Allen and junior guard Ahmad Gilbert each chipped in 12 points as well. Gilbert hit four three-pointers for his 12 points and set Rider career-highs in points and made three-pointers.
Rider will begin MAAC play on the road at Fairfield on Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. Last season, Rider defeated Fairfield in both meetings. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.
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