By Austin Ferguson
The men’s basketball team encountered its toughest opponent of the young season, Arizona State, on Nov. 17 and lost its first game of the year, 92-55.
The Broncs took the trip to Tempe, Arizona, and began play in the campus-round games of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament.
After Rider’s initial game of the season, a 90-59 exhibition win over Slippery Rock on Nov. 2, senior guard Stevie Jordan emphasized that for new players, the beginning of the season is a learning process.
“They’re still learning,” Jordan said. “With us, with our team. We just want to keep moving.”
For freshman guard Christian Ings, the Broncs’ matchup against Arizona State would be the ultimate learning opportunity.
Ings made his first collegiate start at Arizona State after redshirt senior guard Kimar Williams appeared to sustain a lower leg injury in Rider’s win against Delaware State on Nov. 8.
The first-ever matchup between Rider and Arizona State began with a hot start from the Broncs. After both teams traded a bucket in the paint to start the game, redshirt junior forward Frederick Scott and Jordan both hit three-point shots and Rider stormed out to an 8-2 lead heading into the first media timeout.
The Broncs extended their lead further after redshirt junior forward Dimencio Vaughn sank a layup to put Rider up, 10-2.
Rider’s early lead was its only of the game. The Sun Devils brought a spread-out offensive attack out of the first timeout and pushed a 19-6 run to take a 21-16 lead through the second media timeout and did not look back.
Arizona State’s lead grew to as much as 19 after Sun Devils guard Jaelen House scored his 10th point of the half with two minutes to go. After Vaughn hit a pair of free throws, Arizona State re-established that 19 point lead thanks to a fastbreak layup from Arizona State forward Kimani Lawrence and finished the first period ahead, 43-24.
Guards Jaelen House and Remy Martin led the way for Arizona State in the first half and scored 10 and 11 points in the first period, respectively.
For Rider’s offense, the starters accounted for all 24 of the Broncs’ points in the first half. Vaughn led Rider’s first-half scoring with eight points. Scott, Ings, senior center Tyere Marshall and Jordan followed close behind with five, four, four and three points respectively. Vaughn also led the Broncs in rebounding with four first-half boards.
Ings started the second half with a basket to bring Arizona State’s lead to 17, the closest margin of the half. The Sun Devils buckled down and dominated throughout the second half, again led by House and Martin. House matched his first-half total with 10 more points in the second half, while Martin added nine to his total.
On Rider’s side of things, Jordan was the highlight of the Broncs’ second-half offense and scored 12 points in the second period. All other Rider players, with the exception of Vaughn, redshirt freshman forward Tyrel Bladen and freshman guard Khalil Turner, got on the scoreboard in the second half.
Despite the better spread in scoring, the Broncs were unable to muster any form of a comeback as Arizona State won handily, 92-55.
Rider’s biggest struggle against Arizona State came in three point and free throw shooting. The Broncs shot an abysmal 14 percent from behind the arc, only sinking 3 of their 21 attempts from three, and shot 6-for-14, or 23 percent, from the free throw line.
“We got beat,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett said. “We got punched in the mouth. We’ve got to come back. It doesn’t determine who we are. It does not identify who we are. We’ve just got to get better.”
After their loss to Arizona State, the Broncs sit in second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) standings with a 2-1 record. The only team above Rider in the standings is Manhattan, which is 2-0 after it defeated Delaware State and Albany.
Defending MAAC champion Iona sits tied for last in the MAAC after it lost to La Salle and Ohio to start its season. The Gaels share the basement of the standings with Saint Peter’s, Quinnipiac and Niagara.
Rider will next travel to Amherst, Massachusetts, to take on the University of Massachusetts (UMass) on Nov. 20 in its second campus-round game of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament at 7 p.m. The Broncs are winless against UMass in 10 program matchups.
On Nov. 23, Rider will begin play in the Springfield Bracket of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Connecticut, when they take on Columbia at 5 p.m. The result of the Broncs’ matchup will determine their matchup for the next day.
If Rider defeats Columbia, which it has two wins against in three tries, it will take on the winner of Vermont and Central Connecticut State University’s Nov. 23 matchup at 8:30 p.m. If the Broncs lose, they will face the loser of Vermont and CCSU at 6 p.m.
Rider’s Nov. 20 game against UMass will air on ESPN+ and both of the Broncs’ Springfield Bracket matchups will air on ESPN3.
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