By Carolo Pascale
After a brutal loss to Delaware earlier in the week, the Broncs were able to brighten their holiday spirits by defeating the Marist Red Foxes 77-71 on Dec. 22, heading into their Christmas break with a 2-0 record in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play.
Head Coach Kevin Baggett’s heart grew three sizes after the win, finally happy that the depth scoring that had eluded the Broncs showed up and showed out.
“It’s always good to get a league win,” said Baggett in the press conference afterwards. “But these two guys that are here with me really set the tone for this game and gave us a big lift, and we needed that. So I’m finally happy to sit next to these two guys.”
The two players that Baggett was referring to were senior guard Allen Betrand and graduate student guard Zahrion Blue.
Betrand had a breakout night and led the Broncs in points with 19. He shot a deadly accurate 7-for-11 from the field while being perfect from the free throw line. He also had two steals, a big block and 27 minutes of playing time.
Betrand got out to a hot start early in the game and said the early baskets helped, but senior guard Dwight Murray Jr. also just told him to play his game and keep going.
“It definitely gave me confidence, but I just wanted to get down hill and set the tone,” said Betrand. “DJ just told me to keep shooting. He said keep shooting, keep being aggressive, we’ll follow your lead. And that’s what we did.”
As for Blue, the scoring output wasn’t as high, but in 13 minutes he had seven points on 3-for-5 shooting as well as four big rebounds that helped the Broncs get valuable possessions.
Blue, a Princeton native who lives about 10 minutes from Rider, had his most productive night as a Bronc in his 13 minutes on the court. The biggest contributions from him came off the glass as he was able to yank down rebounds when the Broncs needed them most.
“I really love the offensive rebound, but I love rebounding period. You gotta trace the ball. When the ball goes up, you go get it,” said Blue. “My dad always was just telling me look at that ball, just go get it. And that’s what I try to do every time the ball goes up.”
On top of Betrand and Blue, the Broncs rolled a 12-man deep roster with a lot of the depth pieces for the Broncs getting involved. Redshirt senior forward Tyrel Bladen and fellow big man, junior forward Tariq Ingraham, both chipped in valuable minutes and points with both generating five points. Another player who chipped in five points was sophomore guard Adetokunbo Bakare, who had a very solid game in the limited minutes he had.
“I’ve been preaching we got to get more productivity off the bench,” said Baggett. “The better we are with the guys on the bench, the better we are as a team.”
Alongside the depth, the usual suspects were at play for Rider, with Murray and senior forward Mervin James both hitting double digit point totals. Murray had 17, highlighted by shooting 3-for-5 from the three, while James shot 6-for-7 from the field and made the only three he took. James also snatched up a team high 10 rebounds and dished out three assists which also led the Broncs.
The Broncs now have a short break until they return to Rider on Christmas night for practice, before preparing to fly down to Georgia to face the Bulldogs on Dec. 28 for their last non-conference game of the season. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.