By Carolo Pascale
Rider Men’s Basketball returned to the court and opened up its 2021-2022 season in disappointing fashion losing to Duquesne on the road 73-61 on Nov. 9.
“I thought we played well in the first half. In the second we lost our composure,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett.
Looking to start the season strong, the Broncs posted a veteran-heavy starting five. One of those players, senior guard Dwight Murray Jr., got his first action of the season after not playing in the Kutztown exhibition game on Nov. 6 due to an undisclosed injury.
“I think I played decent for it to be my first game back. I don’t like my performance all the way though,” said Murray. “We’re just gonna watch film, get better. I feel like as a team we just got some things to work on.”
Both the teams went to work from the tip-off with the first points coming from Broncs junior forward Mervin James. Each team went back and forth with the lead, trading blows. Also jumping in on the action was sophomore guard Corey McKeithan, hitting dueling jumpers with former high school teammate and current Dukes guard Primo Spears.
“It meant a lot,” Mckeithan said of playing against Spears. “It was just a great feeling.”
Despite the score going back and forth, Rider shot an abysmal 1-for-11 from the 3-point line. Meanwhile, Duquesne didn’t shoot much better at 6-for-17 from behind the arc.
When asked if 3-point shooting was something the Broncs need to improve upon, Baggett said, “We work on it everyday. We just gotta make them.”
The game continued to go back and forth and the first half ended with Rider having a 33-30 lead. Overall, the Broncs played well in the opening 20 minutes despite their rough three point shooting, going 15-for-31 from the field and making two of their three free throws. Along with that, senior center Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson corralled nine rebounds in just the first half.
In the second half, the Broncs defense returned to one that looked similar to the first half of the Kutztown game, playing sloppily and taking unnecessary fouls. After two rough turnovers, Baggett called a timeout and was very animated.
“We broke down defensively at times and started taking some bad shots. We’ve got to be a little more disciplined,” said Baggett.
Afterward, the defense locked down and played much better for most of the second half.
The game continued to go back and forth, but Duquesne started to pull ahead, taking a 71-55 lead with 3:11 left in the game. Despite the better play defensively, Rider continued to give up points at the foul line. The Dukes went 13-for-13 from the free throw line, while Rider went 7-for-9.
The Broncs tried to push back but Duquesne was able to hold on and deal the Broncs their first loss of the season, 73-61.
Murray led the team in points with 17 and played 38 minutes of the match. Ogemuno-Johnson led the team with 12 rebounds. The Broncs shot 26-for-57 from the field and went 2-for-16 from the 3-point line.
“We need to play for 40 minutes and we haven’t done that yet. Execute better, take our time, be patient, make shots, rebound, we gotta defend better. So many guys we’re counting on have got to play better for us,” said Baggett.
With their first game of the season under their belts, the Broncs return to Alumni Gym to face off against Coppin State on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN3.