By Jake Tiger
In a battle that was fought to the very last second, the Rider men’s basketball team took another conference play loss on Jan. 21, this time suffering a devastating 70-69 loss to the lowly Canisius Golden Griffins.
Leading by a point with just seconds left to play, it seemed like Rider would just barely come out on top, but with 3.3 seconds remaining, Canisius desperately threw up a heavily contested shot from the left elbow and the Broncs could only watch as yet another win slipped through their fingers.
“We gotta figure out how to win at the end and play the whole 40 minutes,” said senior guard Dwight Murray Jr.
Murray was the sole reason the Broncs were in the game at all, doing so after missing Rider’s last game on Jan. 19 with a foot injury. He finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, all game-highs.
Besides Murray, senior forward Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson was the only other Bronc in double figures, scoring 12 points before fouling out with three minutes left.
“We had two guys in double digits. It’s kinda hard to win like that when they had four,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “We’re consistently inconsistent… we haven’t been able to count on everyone to pull their weight and it’s been frustrating.”
In addition to Ogemuno-Johnson, Rider’s frontcourt took a huge hit when junior forward Mervin James fouled out, collecting his fifth personal foul with ten minutes left in the second half. It marked the eighth time in 17 games this season that James fouled out.
“Mervin James has a problem fouling out, man, and the fouls are just not very smart,” said Baggett. “It’s a major problem. … This kid fouls out more than anyone in the country and I don’t understand it at all.”
No doubt, James’ lack of availability contributed to the loss, but it was far from the only reason.
Senior forward Dimencio Vaughn was surprisingly ineffective against a team that had just a single Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory entering the night, managing to score only seven points in 35 minutes on 27.3% (3-11) shooting.
At one point, Vaughn took an ugly step back three that clanked off the rim, and Baggett proceeded to get down on one knee and put his head in his head, disgusted at what he had seen.
“We’re just in one of those ruts where we can’t get out of our own way,” said Baggett.
Rider (5-12), now last place in the MAAC, will have another chance to put the pieces together on Jan. 23, traveling to Niagara University to take on the Purple Eagles (8-9).
“We’re gelling, it’s just we don’t know how to close out games,” said Murray. “It’s gonna get there though… nobody gave up. We just gotta trust in ourselves. Onto the next.”