With junior forward Dontrell McQuarter, one of the team’s most crucial and beloved players missing because of a family emergency, Rider played one of its best games of the season, earning a 76-64 victory over the Marist Red Foxes at Alumni Gym on Jan. 22.
Two of McQuarter’s roommates, junior guards Dwight Murray Jr. and Jeremiah Pope put together big performances for Rider, leading the way in honor of their absent teammate.
Murray, who is top-three in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) in points and assists, once again stuffed the stat-sheet, scoring 22 points, in addition to seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Pope proved to be crucial off the bench, scoring a season-high 12 points, making five of his nine shots and showing extreme confidence on the court.
“It kind of had to do with my teammate and roommate [Dontrell McQuarter] not being with us because of family issues back home,” Pope said of his strong performance. “Figuring out that he was being flown out back home this morning, it let me know that the slack had to be picked up… He’s my guy, he’s me and D.J.’s guy, that’s our roommate, that’s one of our best friends on the team, knowing what he’s going through back home, knowing he wants to be with us, it kind of let me know I have to pick it up for him.”
Murray shared a sentiment similar to Pope.
“When I heard that he left I text him right away, I was just like ‘man we’re going to get this dub for you today’ and he texted me right away and was like ‘I love you man,’” Murray said after his fifth game of scoring 20 or more points. “It made us push it more, we wanted to do it just for him. Everybody on the team knew it because that’s our brother and when our brother’s down we’re down, so we had to pick him up.”
Rider shot the ball extremely well, making a hair less than half of their attempts and shooting 44% beyond the arc, it was by far one of their most consistent offensive performances of the season. But it was the defense that set the tone in the victory.
Rider forced 11 first half turnovers, which it converted into 20 points and allowed the team to go into the halftime break with a 36-26 lead. The Rider lead grew to as many as 20 in the second half, as the stifling defense was as consistent as the offense.
Sophomore guard Allen Powell had another strong start, accruing 13 points, along with two blocks and a steal.
“I thought after the last game that Allen was going to continue to get better because we had a conversation about being more aggressive, he’s taking the open shots now and not hesitating,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett explained. “I think the more that he’s comfortable in the lineup and playing, I think you’re going to continue to see that.”
Graduate transfer Rodney Henderson Jr. scored eight points and grabbed eight important rebounds sliding into the power forward spot in McQuarter’s absence.
Rider looks to secure a sweep against Marist and climb up the MAAC standings on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. on its home court.