By Ryan Connelly
The net was swishing on both sides of the court.
It was late in the game, Rider against Monmouth, the Hawks looked like they were about to make yet another comeback in Alumni Gym. Sophomore guard Jordan Allen started to heat up and drain three-pointers. Not only was he on fire, but it seemed contagious for the Broncs.
Head Coach Kevin Baggett said, “ I know everybody is going to talk about the points, but we’ve been challenging [Allen] on the defensive end, you know, just focusing on that end. We know he can score, and give him credit, he started the game doing it and played it and carried throughout.”
Sophomore forward Frederick Scott and freshman guard Tyrei Randall also joined in the offensive eruption with a few buckets of their own in the 92-85 win over the Hawks. Allen finished the game with 26 points, three steals and went 7-for-13 from three. Redshirt freshman forward Dimencio Vaughn finished the game with a double-double recording 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Vaughn also had some big shots, going 3-for-4 from the three-point line.
Monmouth Head Coach King Rice praised what Baggett has been doing this season. He stated, “Kevin has been making this program better since the day he became the head coach. I always want to beat him and he always wants to beat me, but you have to give credit where credit is due. He has built this team and rebuilt it, and they keep getting more and more kids.”
It wasn’t only in the game against Monmouth that the Broncs came to play. Rider is on a five-game winning streak, including a big comeback win against in-state rival St. Peter’s on ESPNU. The Broncs did not get their first lead until the last two minutes. Vaughn hit a free throw late in the game to give Rider a 59-58 lead, sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy. In the final seconds of the game with Rider up 63-60, St. Peter’s had an open look to tie it at the buzzer, but the shot didn’t fall, and Rider came out with a hard fought win. Sophomore center Tyere Marshall was a key factor in this game, scoring 16 points and nine rebounds. Vaughn had 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Vaughn said, “On offense we’ll end up getting points eventually, but the focus is defense. You got to get stops before you score, and defense wins games.”
Over winter break, the team was working hard. They had a record of 7-2 over the break, including a buzzer-beater, upset win over Penn State at the start of those nine games. Scott took a double-contested, off-balanced three and miraculously made the shot as time expired. The bench stormed the court to celebrate with Scott and the rest of their teammates in the 71-70 win over the Nittany Lions of the Big Ten.
After the game against Penn State, MAAC play started. The first game was a heartbreaker against now second place Canisius where Rider lost 77-76. Senior Guard Anthony Durham had to get the ball off quick with only two seconds remaining on the clock. He took a jumper but missed, but the Broncs didn’t hang their heads. They got back out on that court and went on a four-game winning streak beating Niagara, Fairfield, Manhattan and Quinnipiac.
Rider went on to face Iona. Iona has been a top team in the MAAC for the past few years. The Broncs struggled during this game, leaving the final score at 91-64 in Iona’s favor. That game was a wakeup call for Rider. Since then, the Broncs haven’t lost, including the Monmouth and St. Peter’s game.
The Broncs also played St. Peter’s on Jan. 18 right after the loss to Iona. Vaughn didn’t seem to take losing by that much lightly. In the first game against St. Peter’s, he went off for 34 points in an 88-84 win.
The Broncs are in first place in the MAAC with a 9-2 conference record. Their next game is at Quinnipiac on Feb. 4.