By Carolo Pascale
On New Years Eve, just days after the Blizzard of 22’ rolled through the city of Buffalo, the Broncs were able to stay perfect in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play, defeating the Canisius Golden Griffins in a close 66-64 in the final game of 2022.
Due to the aforementioned storm, the game was held at a neutral site, with fellow MAAC member Niagara playing host to the Broncs and Griffins at the Gallagher Center. The Broncs were able to send Canisius back to Buffalo with its eighth straight loss and third loss in MAAC play, while Rider stayed unbeaten with a perfect 3-0 conference record.
“I thought our guys did a really good job coming off the Georgia game where it was a tough loss and responding,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “It was good to see some other guys step up again. Our bench is starting to come into its own and form into the way we thought they would.”
Once again Rider let its opponent jump out to a quick lead, but were able to settle back down and contain Canisius after a slow start in the first four minutes.
It was all back and forth after that as the teams traded baskets, but Rider started to build a lead and eventually went into halftime with a 33-28 advantage.
There were a few interesting things about the first half which included both teams star point guards shooting 0-for-5 with zero points, while they both had a chance to break 1,000 career points with their respective teams. Those guards were Canisius’ graduate student Jordan Henderson and senior Dwight Murray Jr. Henderson needed 12 points to hit 1000 while Murray needed 17.
The first also saw the court and the ball wiped off many times due to the changing of the weather outside the arena, causing slippery conditions, which continued into the second half.
Rider led by as much as nine in the second half, with senior guard Allen Powell and senior forward Mervin James leading the way. Junior forward Tariq Ingraham also chipped in with some solid play to allow the Broncs to keep the lead. Ingraham led the Broncs with 15 points in their previous game against Georgia.
“It was certainly good to see [Ingraham] come off the Georgia game and it not just be that game, and then build upon it again this game here,” said Baggett.
But Canisius pushed back about halfway through the second half, and it was a one possession game from then on out. Henderson hit his 1,000 career point with the Griffins in this stretch.
The Golden Griffins were able to keep it close all the way down to the wire as they made it a three-point game with 48 seconds left, and nearly gave themselves a chance for overtime with 0.8 seconds left, but the Broncs held on to secure the New Year’s Eve win.
Powell led the Broncs with 15 points, while both James and Ingraham chipped in 12 a piece. Ingraham went a perfect 5-for-5 and made both his free throws while James went 6-for-7. Murray had four points, which puts him 13 away from breaking his 1000 point milestone.
“I love the direction the team is headed in,” said James. “We can’t get overconfident. We gotta take every day step-by-step and grind it out.”
Rider will now wake up in 2023 sitting atop the MAAC with a perfect record in conference play, with the Broncs’ next game being at the Gallagher Center again, when they face Niagara on Jan. 2 at noon.