By Cristiana Votta
For the second time this year, the Broncs have defeated first-place Niagara.
On Feb. 28, Rider (17-13, 11-6 MAAC) took the road and defeated Niagara (17-12, 12-5 MAAC) 68-59. Senior guard Jon Thompson scored 25 points in the victory that puts the Broncs just one game out of first place.
The Broncs will look to continue their march toward the top spot in the MAAC when they take on Canisius (17-11, 10-6 MAAC) on March 2.
“We are going to play on their home court, so that’s already an advantage for them,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett said. “We just have to go up there and be ready to compete.”
The Broncs defeated Charleston Southern (16-10, 11-3 BSC) at home on Feb. 23 by a score of 61-54. Although the game wasn’t the Broncs’ strongest performance of the year, they came out on top.
“I didn’t think we played very well, but I thought the guys continued to compete and we just found a way to win,” Baggett said. “I would say, from a defensive standpoint, it is probably the best thing that came out of the game. We just continued to battle and found a way to win.”
Senior center Dera Nd-Ezuma shared similar thoughts.
“Playing defense and playing together was definitely a key to the game,” Nd-Ezuma said. “We got the win by simply playing hard and having fun out there.”
The games against Niagara and Canisius mark the end of regular conference play, to be followed by the MAAC Championships on March 9-11 in Springfield, Mass.
“It’s really emotional for me because this is it for me,” Nd-Ezuma said. “My basketball days are numbered, and I’m trying to make the best of what is left. We can’t control how everything is thrown at us, but we can determine how we want to end it.”
The team realizes that the next few games are important and that they can’t take anything for granted.
“Every game is a must-win for us, Baggett said. “We need to win every single game at this point to give ourselves a chance to either come in first or to be one of the top teams in the league.”
Each school the Broncs face from here on out will bring a competitive game.
“I just think that at this point in the year, you have to let the game unfold and you have to try and pull your own destiny in terms of winning the games that you need to win,” Baggett said. “Everyone in the MAAC is pretty log-jammed in terms of standings so I think it’s just a matter of playing it out and seeing who you will take on next at the end of the day.”
With a possible MAAC championship in reach, the Broncs look to finish off the season strongly and successfully.
“Each game will be tough, but to be the best, we have to beat the best,” Nd-Ezuma said.
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