By Shaun Chornobroff
After starting 1-3 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) competition the men’s basketball team went into the new year looking for a fresh start. Rider started the 2021 calendar year with a hard-fought win to open its weekend series against Fairfield, but its second game against the Stags wasn’t as successful.
The Broncs missed their chance to sweep Fairfield on the road and get momentum in the new year, losing the second game of its back-to-back 72-56.
“It’s a mentality, you got to be able to execute and defend even better than the night before,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett said after the loss.
Rider started the game hot — junior guard Dwight Murray Jr. swished a shot from well beyond the three-point arc early in the game as part of a run that gave Rider a quick 13-2 lead. The Broncs seemed to come out with the same intensity that carried them the night before, but that changed quickly.
Fairfield made defensive adjustments that instantaneously stifled Rider’s offense and caught fire from beyond the arc. Fairfield was largely carried by a 19-4 run and with 3:09 remaining in the first half took a 29-27 lead over the Broncs. The Stags carried their momentum through the rest of the half and went into the halftime break leading Rider 37-31.
“I’ll give those guys credit. They called a timeout and [Fairfield Head Coach Jay Dunne] got after his guys and they responded,” Baggett said. “Sometimes this group seems to think things are going to be easy all the time when it’s not. That’s when they got to be able to deal with a little bit of adversity.”
A good opening to the second half was crucial for Baggett’s squad, but it didn’t happen. The team turned the ball over on its first two possessions and a six-point deficit quickly rose into double-digits.
Rider did cut the Fairfield lead down to five points with 7:08 remaining in the game, but the team’s offense sputtered once again and a 10-0 Fairfield run put the nail in the coffin and sealed the game’s fate.
“You can’t rush shots, you got to take your time, you got to do what got you there,” Baggett explained. “I think too many guys are trying to do too much, instead of continuing to do it as a team we try and do it as individuals.”
The Broncs shot a more than respectable 45.3% from the field, but their long range struggles continued with the team only making three of its 16 attempts from beyond the arc, while Fairfield shot 45.5% from three.
The loss means Rider missed a chance to bring its record to 3-3 in conference play and be among the cluster of MAAC teams that sit at .500, not to mention the luxury of distancing themselves from Fairfield in the standings.
“Every game that you lose is a missed opportunity in my book,” said Baggett.
Rider returns to the court on Jan. 8 when it travels to New York to take on Niagara in its next weekend of MAAC play.