By Josh Veltrie
Senior Harris Mansell hit a three-point field goal with 6.0 seconds left to give Rider a much needed 90-87 conference win over Niagara.
The win comes after the Broncs (15-11, 10-6 MAAC) dropped two straight conference games, suffering a 73-68 loss last Friday against Manhattan and then losing to Saint Peter’s 65-64 on Sunday.
“I thought it was a big time win,” said Head Coach Tommy Dempsey. “We just beat a really good team in a game we really needed to win.”
Against the Purple Eagles (21-7, 12-4 MAAC), Mansell led the Broncs with 22 points, connecting on five of eight from the three-point line, while also adding three assists and three blocks. Junior Ryan Thompson had a solid game as well, compiling 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Rider led a majority of the game and at one point the Broncs were up by 18 points with 15:00 left in the second half. Niagara was able to climb back into the game, due in large part to junior guard Tyrone Lewis, who put the Purple Eagles on his back in the second half. Lewis led Niagara with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
“Lewis did everything he could to will his team to win down the stretch,” Dempsey said. “He was terrific.”
The Broncs found themselves down 87-86 with 24 seconds to go, their first deficit since they were down 9-8 in the first half. It was at that point that the Broncs moved the ball extremely well. Everyone on the floor had touched the ball except Mansell until sophomore guard Justin Robinson found him wide open in the corner, and he put them ahead for good adding an extra point after being fouled with one second left, winning by three.
“They did a great job defending our initial set,” Dempsey said. “We never panicked and kept the play alive until Justin made a big-time play finding Harris in the corner who hit a big shot.”
Robinson had 10 points and seven assists, while sophomore Mike Ringgold had 11 points and six boards.
The Broncs have now beaten the top two teams in the conference, having defeated Siena last weekend.
“We believe there are more than two teams in this league that can win a championship,” Dempsey said. “Niagara and Siena are not the only two teams in the MAAC who can go to the NCAA tournament this year.”
In the loss to Manhattan (15-11, 9-7), the Broncs put themselves in a position to win the game but ended up being outscored by the Jaspers 10-0 in the final 2:59.
Ringgold played well against the Jaspers, ending up with 18 points and nine rebounds while Robinson had 18 points, hitting four out of seven 3-pointers, as well as four boards.
Thompson also had a solid game, compiling 16 points and seven boards.
Against the Peacocks (9-17, 6-10 MAAC), the Broncs suffered a heart-breaking defeat, allowing sophomore Nick Leon of St. Peter’s to hit the game winning layup with 4.5 seconds left. Leon finished with a game high 24 points.
Thompson led the Broncs with 17 points and four boards and Mansell added 16 points and five boards. Robinson also had a solid game with 10 points and four rebounds.
Thompson had put the Broncs ahead with two free throws with 14.5 seconds left but they were unable to stop Leon in the waning seconds.
“Fourteen seconds is a lot of time,” Dempsey said. “You still have to get that last stop, and we didn’t.”
The Broncs are currently in third place in the MAAC, behind Siena (15-1) and Niagara. They host the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) Saturday at 4 p.m. as part of ESPNU BracketBusters weekend.