By Carolo Pascale
The Broncs are back in action, getting onto the court of Alumni Gym for their first game of the 2022-23 basketball season on Oct. 29. As the headliners of the Homecoming Weekend events, the Broncs rocked the exhibition matinee matchup to the tune of a dominating 111-79 win. Rider scored over 100 points for the first time since the final game of the 2017-18 regular season.
Despite the win, Baggett was not satisfied with the performance.
“I thought it was a better second half than it was the first half. Again, we’re just trying to get the bugs out as well,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “There’s a lot of things we need to do better, but we also did some good things on the defensive end and on the offensive end. But again, as I said to these guys, it’s a long road, and so we gotta get better day to day, game to game, and we will.”
The starters for the Broncs looked a little bit different this year. There were the usuals, senior guard Dwight Murray Jr., senior guard Allen Powell and graduate student Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson, but the starting five also featured senior guard and Rhode Island transfer Allen Betrand and returning junior forward Nehemiah Benson.
Betrand is expected the hole left by the graduation of Dimencio Vaughn. Benson in the starting five came as a surprise as that spot is usually occupied by senior forward Mervin James. According to Baggett, James, who was named to the preseason All-MAAC Third Team, sprained his shoulde, but should return soon. “He was actually in practice yesterday for some of the things, but not having practiced this week, we weren’t gonna play him,” said Baggett.
The game itself opened on a familiar note, with Murray draining a three to notch the game’s first points. But for about 11 minutes of the first half, Cabrini kept the score close despite the Broncs having a major size difference at the posts.
Cabrini forced eight lead changes in that time, and actually held a 28-25 lead with 8:28 left in the half.
The Broncs went on an eight-point run to reclaim the lead and held on for the rest of the game.
Despite having the lead, Murray showed up with a buzzer-beater, draining a fadeaway jumper just before time expired to give the Broncs a 57-44 advantage heading into halftime.
The second half was all Rider as they dominated Cabrini, raining down shots from all angles. With 6:36 left in the game, the Broncs had a 93-67 lead and decided to make their final subs of the game, with four of the Broncs on the court being new players. The only Rider player from last year that stayed in the game was Benson.
“That’s the beauty of this team this year, that we have depth. And if we have some injuries or some foul trouble that we can lean on [Benson], he knows what he’s doing out there,” said Baggett. “He went out there and did exactly what we know he’s gonna do. He did a great job, and that’s why we trust him when he gets out on the court.”
By the end of the game, seven Broncs had double-digit points, led by Murray, Powell and Betrand. Murray finished with 18 points, Powell had 17 and Betrand scored 13 in his first game after missing all of last year due to an ACL tear.
Betrand only missed one shot the whole game, going 3-for-3 from the three point line and 5-for-6 from the field.
“I feel great. It took me a minute to really get into the flow of things again, but I’ve been adjusting real good,” said Betrand. “There’s challenges but Coach Baggett has been helping me every day. The guys have helped me get in the swing of things.”
With the exhibition win, the Broncs now look forward to their first regular season game of the year against Providence on Nov. 8.
“They’re gonna be ready. There will be things that obviously we’ll do that we didn’t do today,” said Baggett. “And I like where we are, I like where we’re headed, and that’ll be another good barometer for us in terms of where we stand.”