By Carolo Pascale
The final game of the fall semester saw Rider go out in style, with three Broncs stealing the show as they defeated the Stonehill Skyhawks in a steller 78-67 win on Dec. 7.
The trio of senior guard Dwight Murray Jr., senior forward Mervin James and graduate student forward Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson scored in double figures with James and Murray eclipsing 20 points each, while Ogemuno-Johnson finished just under that in a stellar performance that helped the Broncs get back to .500 (4-4) on the season.
“It was awesome to see those guys play the way they did,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “We’re going to need those guys to play that way more often than not and I think they’re starting to get back into the groove of things.”
The game started at a snail’s pace for both the Broncs and the Skyhawks, with neither team playing great basketball. With 11:20 left to go in the 1st half, the score stood at just 15-14 in favor of Stonehill.
After that, the scoring finally began to pick up, with Stonehill jumping out to a 10 point lead. The lead stemmed from impressive three point shooting, going 8-for-19 through about 16 minutes of the half.
The Broncs rebounded but weren’t able to take the lead back as they headed back to the locker rooms down 39-35. Murray had 13 points by the end of the half on 5-for-8 shooting from the field, while James also deposited 11 points into the net in the half.
The second half was much better for the Broncs as it was pretty much the AOJ and James show, with Murray being the guest star.
Both Ogemuno-Johnson and James put in a ton of work to help the Broncs get the lead back, and they would only allow the Skyhawks to take back one time for the rest of the game.
With just over six minutes left in the half, the Broncs started a huge 12-3 point run that really tipped the scales of the game, essentially cementing the Broncs victory.
Nearly half of the points for the Broncs came in the paint in this one, with an unbelievable 38 points being dumped on Stonehill from underneath the net.
“Coach was just saying that we needed to go inside because they didn’t have any shot blocker, so we just had to be aggressive and attack their bigs,” said James about why the Broncs were so effective in the paint.
Ogemuno-Johnson echoed a similar sentiment but also credited the scouting report for the success at the rim.
“I think it was the scouting report. We had to play in the posts if we were going to win,” said Ogemuno-Johnson. “We had to be physical and stong and just go to work down low, and we took advantage of that.”
At the end of the game, James led the team with 23 points, while Murray had 20 and Ogemuno-Johnson had 19. James shot a very impressive 10-for-18 from the field, Murray shot 6-for-10 from the field and 4-for-7 from the three, while Ogemuno-Johnson shot a very solid 7-for-9 from near the rim. James was one point away from tying his single-game career high while Ogemuno-Johnson tied his.
“We got the balls in the right people’s hands at the right time and coaches drawing up the right plays, and it’s all just about execution and just staying together,” said James.
The Broncs, now on a three game win streak, have a much needed 11 day break in between their next matchup against Delaware on Dec. 19 back at Alumni Gym. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.