By Carolo Pascale
With the chance to close out 2021 on a high note, Rider men’s basketball took on the Griffins of Gwynedd Mercy in a last-minute addition to its season on Dec. 20. The game was added after the Bronc’s originally scheduled game on Dec. 18 against Rutgers was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Scarlet Knights program. The game has since been canceled, both schools announced on Dec. 20.
With the game against Rutgers out of the picture, the Broncs quickly organized and regrouped for the matchup against its Division III foe, which the Broncs won 82-57.
“Once we had the opportunity to get back and practicing and getting everybody’s mind right, get our confidence back, we made some strides today,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett.
The Broncs got out to a fast start, going on an 8-0 run before the Griffins finally scored. Junior forward Mervin James led the charge for the Broncs with eight points, pushing the lead to 13 with just over 12:30 left in the half.
The Griffins started to push back harder, knocking down several three’s to shrink the Broncs lead all the way down to six. Three-pointers were seemingly the only way that the Griffins were able to score, as 18 of their 27 first half points were from behind the arc.
But the Broncs, who usually struggle from the 3-point line, were led by fantastic long-range shooting from junior guard Allen Powell, who shot 4-for-5 from the three in the first half alone. He also led the team in points by the end of the first half with 14.
“Everything was falling and that was a good thing. I just go in there and play my game,” said Powell.
The Broncs finished the first half with a 40-27 lead, their largest going into halftime of any game this season.
Heading into the second half, the Broncs picked up right where they left off, with Powell drilling another triple, and extending the lead even more. Once again, Gwynedd Mercy pushed back using its strong 3-point shooting to cut the lead back to 11.
In a similar fashion to the first half, the Broncs matched the Griffins 3-point efforts with a string of their own, with Powell and graduate student Dimencio Vaughn propelling the Broncs lead to proportions not yet seen this season.
The Griffins did not see the Broncs lead shrink any smaller than 18 for the rest of the game as Rider defeated Gwynedd Mercy by 25. This was the Broncs largest win of the season and it was powered by a fantastic performance by Powell, who finished 6-for-10 from the three and 22 points. Powell also led the team in minutes played with just under 30 minutes.
“He’s Allen Powell. We count on him to do what he did tonight,” said Baggett.
The Broncs next game won’t be until 2022 when they move back into conference play when they take Quinnipiac.
“The struggles that we went through are behind us, and when it comes to conference play, they know us, we know them, our league is really good,” said Baggett, “We just gotta understand that every game that we go out and play a tough opponent and we have to be ready. They just gotta execute what we’re asking them to do.”
The Broncs will face the Bobcats in Hamden at 1 p.m. on Jan. 2 and the game will be streamed on ESPN3.