By Austin Ferguson
Down to fifth place in the standings, winning the rest of its games this season was paramount to a favorable placement in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament.
With one game to go, the men’s basketball team has an 11-8 record, lodging itself in fourth place with a chance for it to push to third by season’s end.
Rider vs. Monmouth, Feb. 28
The Broncs defeated long-time rival Monmouth on Feb. 28, 79-67, behind strong scoring distribution and an attack on the boards.
Rider’s largest driving force on both sides of the ball was senior big man Tyere Marshall. The center led all Broncs with 21 points and grabbed 15 boards in the process. The effort was his sixth double-double of the season.
Marshall credited his hard work to the hard practices Rider held leading up to the game.
“We were competitive, really competitive,” Marshall said. “We were going after each other all week and that translated to the game.”
Redshirt junior forward Dimencio Vaughn backed up Marshall with his fifth double-double of the year, scoring 16 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Head Coach Kevin Baggett was pleased with the Broncs’ efforts.
“We needed that game. We needed it in the worst way,” Baggett said.
Prior to its matchup against the Hawks, Rider had lost back-to-back games, both on the road. The Broncs also lost their last game against the Hawks, leaving West Long Branch, New Jersey, with a 90-84 defeat on Feb. 2.
Monmouth’s most glaring weakness during the season was its absence of a true big.
Though its tallest player is 6-foot-11, senior Sam Ibiezugbe is its lone center on the roster and has not started a single game all season. The Hawks’ acting big is forward Mustapha Traore, who stands at 6-foot-8.
The Hawks jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, which Rider answered with a 6-2 swing of its own.
After a highly-intense stretch of back-and-forth play that saw a trio of emphatic dunks for the Broncs from redshirt senior guard Kimar Williams and redshirt junior forwards Dimencio Vaughn and Frederick Scott, Rider gained control of the tempo and the lead with a 16-0 stretch that led to ending the half ahead, 39-28.
The Broncs kept their foot on the gas for the rest of the contest, leading by double digits the entire second half. Rider lead by as many as 16 en route to its decisive victory over Monmouth.
Rider at Fairfield, March 1
The Broncs traveled to take on Fairfield in Rider’s last away game of the season. The matchup was also the last to take place in Fairfield’s Alumni Hall, its home since 1959.
Unfortunately for Stags fans, Jordan and the Broncs sent fans home unhappy as Rider won, 65-51.
The Broncs’ performance from the free-throw line, particularly Jordan’s 13-of-16 mark, was key to Rider’s 14-point victory.
Vaughn and Scott went a combined 9-of-12 from the charity stripe to round out a 22-of-28 performance from the free-throw line.
As he had continued to return to form, Jordan led all players in points and rebounds and tied team leads in assists, blocks and steals. Jordan tallied 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, a block and three steals in the win.
Jordan’s three steals helped him match the Rider all-time career record of 188, held by Ryan Thompson. Jordan also sits eight assists short of the Rider record held by Deon Hames with 598.
Fairfield held two leads during the contest, both of which came in the second half, which ended with 10 minutes left in the game when redshirt sophomore guard Tyrei Randall hit a 3-pointer that pushed the Broncs back into the lead for good.
Rider’s MAAC Tournament Scenarios
The Broncs’ 11-8 MAAC record is good enough to put them fourth in the standings with one game to go. At this point, Rider can improve to as high as third place, though it could also drop into the sixth seed and lose its first-round bye in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In what would take a novel to explain, the performance of multiple MAAC teams will help decide where the Broncs will start the MAAC tournament.
First off, Rider has to win its March 4 game against Manhattan. If that happens, Monmouth must win out to secure itself in the third spot in the MAAC. If the Hawks lose to Siena on March 6, the Broncs will own the tiebreaker with their better record over the Saints.
If Monmouth splits with a win over Siena, the tiebreaker will then point to performance against second-place Saint Peter’s, which the Broncs again own the tiebreaker, splitting its season series with the Peacocks while the Hawks were swept by Saint Peter’s.
The Broncs currently sit in fourth place and are most likely to stay there.
If Rider wins its last game, it clinches at least a fourth-seed finish. If the Broncs lose their last matchup to Manhattan, it must hope and pray that Iona and Niagara do not win out.
If the Gaels defeat Quinnipiac and Siena consecutively to end the season, they hold the tiebreaker with the Broncs as the only team to sweep Rider this season.
As long as Niagara does not win out, the Broncs will find themselves in the final first-round bye spot in the MAAC.
In the reverse situation, Niagara can leapfrog Rider if it wins out to compound Iona failing to win out.
If the Purple Eagles and the Gaels win out, they will both hold tiebreakers over the Broncs, pushing them to the sixth seed and forcing Rider to play an opening-round game in the MAAC tournament for the first time since the 2016-17 season, when it finished in sixth place.
Rider’s Next Game
The Broncs’ last regular-season matchup will host Manhattan on March 4 for senior night, tipping off at 7 p.m.
Rider’s game with Manhattan will be broadcasted live on ESPN3 at 7 p.m.