By Carlos Toro
Another pair of home games, another pair of disappointing results for the Broncs.
The men’s basketball team lost home games on Feb. 21 against Iona and on Feb. 23 against Siena to put its overall record below .500 with two regular-season games remaining.
The Broncs (13-14, 9-9 MAAC) tied the game after freshman guard Jimmie Taylor scored on a layup on a stolen ball from Siena’s junior guard Evan Hymes. Following the layup, the Saints (13-16, 9-9 MAAC) went on a 9-0 run to end the game.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” senior guard Tommy Pereira said. “That’s been one of our go-to keys this year.”
Both teams struggled from the floor early, shooting 2-9 from the field. Defense wasn’t the only reason for the low offense, especially for Rider.
“We’ve got to make layups,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett said. “It’s not about the turnovers; it’s the layups. It’s the free throws that we are missing.”
Offense was so scarce in the first half that neither team scored a point for almost four and a half minutes; but the drought was over when Taylor scored on a jumper to tie the game at 16 with 6:57 left in the first half.
At halftime, Rider honored the 1993 and 1994 men’s teams that won the NEC Championship and went to the NCAA tournament. At the same time, fans were treated to one of the teams’s greatest moments when Rider great Darrick Suber scored a game-winning buzzer beater against Wagner to win the 1993 NEC Championship.
Once the second half began, Siena went to work.
Siena pressured the Broncs’ offense from the get-go, and while doing so, slowly started to cut into Rider’s slim lead.
After a layup from Siena freshman guard Maurice White to give the Saints a 44-43 lead, the visiting team did not look back.
Siena held on to the lead for nine and a half minutes, their biggest lead being six with 6:26 remaining. Rider had a chance to take the lead when it outscored Siena 7-2 with four minutes remaining, but couldn’t get any closer until it tied the game late.
With the momentum on the Saints’ side, the Broncs fell flat, failing to score for the rest of the game while Siena took advantage to finish on a 9-0 run. Rider went 0-6 from the field in the final two minutes. Meanwhile, Siena went 7-8 from the free throw line, along with a jumper from sophomore guard Ryan Oliver to thwart Rider’s comeback attempt.
Throughout the game, the Broncs’ shooting struggled. The second-best team in the MAAC in 3-point percentage shot only 4-22 from beyond the arc. Senior guard Anthony Myles had an off day as well, shooting just 1-12 from the field and finishing with six points, while senior forward Danny Stewart finished with 12 points.
The Broncs need to win both of their next two games and Iona must lose a regular season game to avoid having a play-in game during the MAAC Championship.
Rider will face Canisius (19-10, 13-5 MAAC) on Feb. 28 at Alumni Gym. Then, the Broncs wrap up the regular season on Mar. 2 on the road against Iona (19-8, 16-2 MAAC).
“We still believe in our chances in the MAAC Tournament,” Pereira said. “It doesn’t matter how many games we let it slip, we’re always going to keep trying, keep fighting. We all believed in that since day one.”