By Shaun Chornobroff
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — March Madness is one of the most notorious sayings in all of sports and on March 8, it became a reality for the Broncs, as the last-place Rider men’s basketball team walked away with a historic 78-76 upset over the sixth-ranked Canisius Golden Griffins in the opening game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament.
After the trials and tribulations of the worst regular season of Kevin Baggett’s head coaching tenure, the relief could be felt by every member of the team at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, when the entire roster met on the floor in jubilation.
The win marked the third time in MAAC Tournament history that an 11 seed was able to pull off the upset and advance into the quarterfinals.
The Broncs were trailing for most of the game, but played its best basketball when it mattered most, mounting an 11-point second-half comeback.
“My message to our guys was to stay together,” Baggett said after the statement victory. “We were going to go through some highs, some lows, a little bit of adversity in the game, [but] stay together. If you want to win, you guys have to stay together, play together and continue to believe.”
After finding out he had been snubbed from the All-MAAC first team, junior guard Dwight Murray Jr. reminded the conference that he can carry Rider to victory on any given night, pacing the Broncs with 22 points.
“Yeah I definitely felt like that,” Murray said when asked if he had a point to prove in the game. “I’m happy that we’re here right now because first-team I really wanted, but my main goal is to make it to the NCAA Tournament with my team because we’ve been doubted since the beginning, but I knew we were good from the get-go.”
When the game was on the line, Murray did what great players do: he took over.
The transfer from Incarnate Word immediately turned into a team leader, with an amazing last five minutes of basketball, either scoring or assisting on the team’s last eight points.
The Georgia native capped off his dazzling display with a clever feed to his roommate Dontrell McQuarter, who converted the game-winning shot with less than 30 seconds remaining to give the Broncs a 78-76 lead.
It was a poetic moment for the junior forward who has had a rollercoaster first season with Rider.
“He’s had a tough year, he’s had a family emergency, he’s been away from the team, to be honest with you guys I wasn’t sure if he was going to come back dealing with his family, with the situation at home,” Baggett said to reporters in the postgame press conference.
The wise words of Murray summed up the momentous victory.
“Nothing better than this right now,” the junior guard said cheerily after the game.
The victory is Rider’s first MAAC Tournament victory since 2017.
Murray and the rest of the Rider team will look to continue their Cinderella run in Atlantic City on March 11 at 5 p.m.
Follow Shaun Chornobroff for the latest on the men’s basketball team.