Broncs fall in final non-conference game of the season

By Carolo Pascale

With the final days of 2022 on the horizon, Rider traveled down to familiar territory for a few players, taking on the Georgia Bulldogs on Dec. 28. After a porous 26 minutes of play, the Broncs broke out of their holiday hangover and nearly completed a 20-point comeback but fell short, losing 78-72 in their last non-conference game of the season.

“We had some breakdowns but nobody dropped their heads. Guys just keep competing and battling,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. 

Three Broncs have ties to Georgia, those being senior guard Dwight Murray Jr., senior forward Mervin James and freshman guard Kami Young who is out with an injury. All three played highschool basketball at Pebblebrook High School as well as both Murray and Young being from the Peach State.

“I spend time with my family when I can. We had like 50 people out here or so,” said Murray. “I haven’t seen them since the summer so it was good to see them.”

As for the game, most of the first half did not go well for the Broncs. The Bulldogs opened the game with a 10-0 lead and the Broncs struggled to find the hoop. 

Several players, including most of the starters, struggled to get shots to fall, causing Rider to turn to the bench for points. The Broncs finally got going off of a layup from redshirt senior Tyrel Bladen, which finally got them on the board. Despite that, Rider still didn’t have much luck as they continued to miss shots, going 4-for-18 from the field and 0-for-3 from the three with 10 minutes left in the first.

Meanwhile, Georgia was making nearly everything as they jumped out to a growing  lead; however, Rider would start to claw back into the game and the first half ended with the Bulldogs up by just seven.

The second half started a similar way as the first, as the Bulldogs were all over the Broncs, going up by as much as 20 points with 13:53 left to go in the game. After that, a switch flipped and Rider composed themselves to gain some ground back. 

The Broncs’ second half charge was led by junior forward Tariq Ingraham, who was able to bang and crash to get to the net, cash in on multiple free throws and pull down crucial rebounds. He secured a season-high 15 points with seven rebounds and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line.

“This is the first time I’ve made it this far in a season, so this is a real breakthrough,” said Ingraham. “This is about me finding myself and producing on the court.”

Rider was able to generate chances, finally having shots go in, and were able to push the Bulldogs to the brink as the Broncs closed the lead to two points with just under a minute remaining.

Unfortunately, off a scrambling rebound that went out of play, the Bulldogs were able to get possession with 32 seconds left. The play was reviewed for around five minutes and Baggett was not happy with the call as he said it clearly went off a Georgia player.

“It definitely hit the player’s hand. Even on their replay they showed it,” said Baggett. “I knew it was our ball immediately because I’m standing there watching it go off of No. 23. I don’t know how they end up watching replays and they come away with that. I have no idea.”

After the call, the Broncs didn’t get another opportunity and the Bulldogs sealed the game with four free throws.

Rider shot 43.5% from the field overall, and shot a measly 23.5% from the three. Ingraham finished with a team-leading 15 points, while James had 14 and senior guard Allen Betrand had 12.

Rider closes out its non-conference schedule with a 3-6 record against non Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) opponents. With non-conference play now over, the Broncs have 18 more games left before the MAAC Tournament in March, with their next being up in the icy and snow-filled city of Buffalo when they take on Canisius on New Year’s Eve at 3 p.m.

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