By Rob Rose
After an up-and-down year, the men’s basketball team finished the regular season as the No. 4 seed following a victory over Marist, 75-64, on March 3.
Entering the game against Marist, Rider knew a win would guarantee a first-round bye, but it wouldn’t come easy.
In the first matchup between the teams this season, Rider won, 86-85, and had to come back from down by 16 points in the second half for the victory.
The teams battled early as neither team created any separation in the opening minutes. Late in the first half, sophomore forward Frederick Scott was fouled and, while he laid on the ground, a Marist player landed on top of Scott. In response, Scott kicked Marist’s Luke Nedrow and was given a flagrant two foul and was ejected from the game.
“He should’ve never responded that way,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “I don’t think the kid from Marist was intentionally trying to hurt [Scott,] but it was just a response. Sometimes you respond when someone lands on you or hurts you.”
Baggett said he was told by an official that Scott would not face further discipline because it was not deemed a fight and he would be eligible to play.
In the second half with Rider trailing, sophomore guard Jordan Allen erupted with his best scoring performance since Dec. 17 with 23 points against Marist. Allen scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and found his trademark 3-point shot that he struggled to find this season with six 3-pointers.
“I’m happy for him. It was much-needed,” said Baggett. “It was good to see him have some success. Hopefully he can carry that into the [MAAC] tournament.”
Junior guard Stevie Jordan also had a strong performance with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Jordan now has 472 assists in his career and is six assists away from tying Jack Cryan ’66 as the No. 4 all-time leader in program history.
The Broncs outscored the Red Foxes 41-26 in the second half to pick up the victory.
In its previous game, Rider lost to top-seeded Iona, 86-79, on March 1.
Early in the contest, the Broncs held an advantage before a run by Iona before halftime put the Gaels up, 41-35.
A pair of 3-pointers by Iona to begin the second half pushed the advantage to double digits and never looked back. The Gaels’ lead swelled to 25 points with 10 minutes left in the game and the Broncs had no answer for Iona’s backcourt.
Rider cut into the deficit late, but Iona had an answer for every run the Broncs started. The Gaels held on for the victory to clinch the No. 1 seed and regular season title.
After the regular season ended, the MAAC announced that Jordan was named to the All-MAAC Second Team and Scott was named to the All-MAAC Third Team. Both players received the awards for the second straight year.
The Broncs began the season picked to finish No. 1 in the MAAC Preseason Poll, but after another wild season in the conference, the preseason favorites will face the team picked to finish last, Siena, in their second-round matchup.
In the only meeting between the teams this season, Siena won, 59-57, at Alumni Gym and this matchup will take place on Siena’s homecourt. The Times Union Center in Albany, New York is the home of the MAAC Basketball Championships, but is also where Siena plays its home games.
“I’m never a fan of having to play an opponent on their homecourt,” said Baggett. “At this point, it is what is it is.”
Despite the difficult season, Rider has confidence the team picked to win the conference last October can emerge as the MAAC Championship Tournament begins for Rider on March 9 at 9:30 p.m.
“Top to bottom, I think we’re the best team in the league,” said graduate student guard Anthony Durham. “I think we can win three-straight games. I think we got the most-talented team in the MAAC.”
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