The Rider men’s basketball team is hitting its stride just as it gets into the thick of the MAAC schedule.
With last night’s 79-65 victory over Marist (14-8 overall, 8-3 MAAC), Rider (16-6 overall, 9-2 MAAC) has won eight straight contests and moved a half-game over Siena into first place in the conference. The Broncs’ eight-game conference streak is the team’s longest since the 1995-96 season.
Senior forward Jason Thompson led Rider with a game-high 20 points and came one rebound short of a double-double with nine. He did reach the 1,000 rebound plateau in the game, and is third on the Rider’s all-time scoring list with 1,782 points.
Junior guard Harris Mansell scored 15 points and shot a perfect 3-3 from three-point range. Sophomore Ryan Thompson had 14 points and six rebounds, while freshman guard Justin Robinson scored 11 points.
One of the main reasons for the Broncs’ success during this eight game stretch has been the key contributions they are receiving from the bench. Senior guard Kamron Warner went 3-4 from beyond the arc for nine points in only eight minutes of action.
“He’s given us a spark,” Head Coach Tommy Dempsey said. “If you’re going to have a good team then you’re going to need depth. He’s given us quality depth at the guard spot. He’s a senior, a team leader, and I think everyone is happy that he’s doing well.”
Rider came into the game tied with Marist for first place in the MAAC and came out like a team on a mission, not falling behind at any point in the showdown. Rider was able to shoot a tad under 52 percent for the game, including 8-16 from three-point territory, and 15-21 from the foul line. What made the shooting effort even more impressive was the fact that Marist had held their previous three opponents to under 30 percent shooting.
Marist had their three-game winning streak snapped and also lost their first home game of the year against Rider after starting off 8-0. The win also snapped a five-game winning streak the Red Foxes had over the Broncs.
“I like our team on the road,” Dempsey said. “To play on the road you need a toughness and we have a tough group of guys that have great chemistry. That’s a good mentality to take on the road.”
Guard Ben Farmer had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Red Foxes and guard David Devezen also chipped in with 13 points.
On Sunday, the Broncs traveled to the house of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson and knocked off a struggling St. Peter’s squad at the Prudential Center, 76-67.
Jason Thompson racked up his 13th double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 boards. Mansell and Robinson combined for 25 points and Warner chipped in with five points in five minutes off the bench.
The win was the Broncs’ third straight over the Peacocks.
Last Thursday, the Broncs shot a lights-out 65 percent from the field at Alumni Gym to beat Manhattan 93-80.
Junior guard Lamar Johnson had the hot hand for Rider off the bench as he shot a near perfect 8-9 from the field for a career high 23 points. Johnson also hit a career high seven three-pointers in the game on only eight attempts. As a team Rider hit 14-20 three-pointers for a whopping 70 percent.
“I think we’ve really found answers on the bench,” Dempsey said. “(Red shirt sophomore guard) Pat Mansell, (senior forward) Joel Green and (sophomore center) Robbie Myers have been big for us. We’ve been able to go to the bench a lot. (Freshman guard) Matt Griffin has also played a significant role. Guys are going in with opportunities to contribute and they have in their own ways.”
Jason Thompson had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Ryan Thompson went 6-7 from the field for 15 points.
For his efforts, Jason Thompson was honored as the MAAC Player of the Week for the week of Jan. 21-27.
In victories over Iona, Manhattan and St. Peter’s, Thompson had 49 points, 28 rebounds and 12 blocks. It was the fourth time this year that he won the award.
Rider has been able to shoot the ball well, going over 50 percent the past three games, and Dempsey credits it to how the team has been preparing at practice.
“We work so hard at our shooting mechanics and footwork,” Dempsey said. “We have better shot selection and the right guys are shooting it at the right time.”
The Broncs face a tough stretch in the next three games, as they will play second-place Siena twice, and Niagara, which torched them with the three ball in their MAAC opener on Dec. 6.
The team travels to play Siena (13-7 overall, 8-2 MAAC) on Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip-off that will be broadcast on ESPN 2.
The teams split the season series last year.
It will be a matchup to see if Siena is better at home or Rider is better on the road.
Siena is 8-2 on their home court and that includes a 79-67 upset of No. 20-ranked Stanford. Rider comes in with a 7-3 road record.
“Now we have to learn how to play with a bulls-eye on our back,” Dempsey said. “Everyone we play will be giving us their best shot.”