By Austin Ferguson
A win against Coppin State on Nov. 5, 91-84, marked a promising start for the men’s basketball team after it defeated Slippery Rock in an exhibition, 90-59, on Nov. 2.
What many outsiders would likely see as a meaningless tune-up game in the Broncs’ preseason matchup with NCAA Division II opponent Slippery Rock served as the main event for Rider’s homecoming and family weekend on Nov. 2.
Though the meeting was the only preseason game for the Broncs, it was not the same case for Slippery Rock. The Rock, who compete in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, played an exhibition against the University of Pittsburgh on Oct. 30, where it lost 98-47.
Every player for the Broncs found minutes on the floor with the exception of redshirt sophomore forward Tyrei Randall, who according to Head Coach Kevin Baggett was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
Rider had trouble finding its footing at the start of the first half when Slippery Rock found itself with an early 10-9 lead in the first half.
That one-point lead was the largest and only lead of the game for Slippery Rock. Just as The Rock got its lead, the Broncs took it back with a 17-0 run over the next four minutes. A strong finish to the first half, highlighted by double figures in scoring for both redshirt junior forwards Frederick Scott and Dimencio Vaughn, gave Rider a 46-33 lead going into the second half.
Despite the strong half, Rider had some glaring flaws from the first 20 minutes of play. Communication was lacking at times, players were slightly over-aggressive at points and the team shot 8-18 from the free throw line in the first half.
Up double digits at the half, Scott said that Baggett urged the team to keep the intensity up in the second half.
Scott said, “[Baggett] said, ‘We need to continue to apply the pressure because that’s what great teams do. Bad teams let them come back and make it a game.’ That’s the difference from last year to this year. Once we have our foot on the pedal, we continue to go.”
The Broncs pulled it together in the second half and ballooned their lead to 31 points and ended at that margin as Rider won, 90-59. Every player that suited up for Rider scored a field goal, with Scott, Vaughn and senior guard Stevie Jordan finishing the game in double figures.
Rider also improved its free-throw shooting with a 10-14 performance from the line in the second half, highlighted by a 6-6 performance from the free throw line for Scott.
Redshirt freshman Tyrel Bladen led the team in blocks in his Broncs debut, sending back two shots in the contest.
Jordan felt that the exhibition served as a great opportunity for the freshmen on the team to become accustomed to collegiate play. Jordan said the game helped “get those guys acclimated to game speed.”
Baggett was happy with the performance of players new to the Broncs, but saw room for improvement.
“We still got a ways to go to figure out the things we need them to do,” Baggett said. “But they’re trying. We’re going to make mistakes, guys play hard, they play through them, we did a good job with communicating and talking. It’s a process… sometimes it’s good to learn and see things on the fly.”
Rider began its regular season in Baltimore, Maryland, on Nov. 5 against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s Coppin State. The Broncs defeated Coppin State in their first regular season home game of last season, 87-67.
Coppin State guard Aaron Robinson, who transferred to Coppin State from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s Quinnipiac, hit a trio of threes in the first eight minutes of the game to put Rider down 23-8.
The 15-point lead was the highest of the game for Coppin State and the Eagles kept a portion of that lead throughout the first half. The Broncs were able to cut Coppin State’s largest lead in half by the end of the half and were down 44-37 after 20 minutes of play.
Rider’s three-point shooting woes were evident in the first half. The Broncs shot 3-11, or 27 percent, from beyond the arc.
Despite the deficit, the Broncs found themselves ahead in two important stat categories. Rider held a 30-22 advantage on the boards and a 19-8 advantage in free throw attempts.
The Broncs opened the second half going back-and-forth with Coppin State. Rider kept up with the Eagles in the first portion of the second half, though they were unable to close the gap.
After the first official timeout of the second half, Rider’s offense, led by Vaughn and Scott, made a push to close the gap. With 12 minutes left in the game, Scott hit his second three-point shot of the game to tie the game at 55.
Senior center Tyere Marshall followed Scott’s three with a layup to give the Broncs a 57-55 lead.
Coppin State’s Aaron Robinson quickly followed with a three pointer and retook the lead for the Eagles. Stevie Jordan answered with a three of his own to put Rider up, 60-58.
The Broncs didn’t look back, as they maintained the lead for the rest of the game. Their lead topped at 11 points after a Marshall layup with four minutes left in the game and Rider coasted to the end of regulation with a 91-84 victory over Coppin State.
Scott and Vaughn led the way for the Broncs in scoring with 21 points each as both registered double-doubles. Scott grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and Vaughn brought down 10 boards of his own.
Vaughn also held the team lead in steals along with Stevie Jordan with three steals.
Two other Rider players finished the contest with double figures in scoring. Marshall and Jordan scored 20 and 17 points respectively.
The Broncs will travel to Dover, Delaware, on Nov. 9 to take on Delaware State at 7 p.m.
Baggett said the number one goal for Rider this season was to show unity.
“Team,” Baggett said emphatically. “That’s the goal. Be a team.”
Read Austin Ferguson’s preview of the 2019-2020 MAAC season here.