By Shaun Chornobroff
Sports are often simplified to be one team against the other, after all that is what the box score says. However, there is always a third component to any game: refereeing. And in Rider’s 78-69 home loss against the undefeated Siena Saints, refereeing played a crucial role in swinging the game.
“There were some calls out there that were questionable, but I thought as a whole we did a good job,” Rider men’s basketball Head Coach Kevin Baggett said after the game.
These calls hurt Rider so much that they ended up invalidating a career-high 25 points from junior guard Dwight Murray Jr. and a double-double from forward Dontrell McQuarter.
“I had 25 [points], but I want to win more than anything,” an honest Murray said after the game. “It’d be better if I had 25 and a win today.”
The score was 60-59 and Rider had a chance to take the lead over Saints, who are still a likely top-three team in the MAAC with defending MAAC Player of the Year Jalen Pickett unavailable for the game.
Siena had just moved back into the lead and McQuarter received the ball in the post looking to reclaim a one-point advantage. The junior was backing down Siena forward Manny Camper, who has a 40-pound weight advantage to McQuarter, when the Siena guard fell on seemingly light contact.
Siena followed the foul with a basket from Jordan King, who scored 21 points in Pickett’s absence.
The following possession, junior center Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson had the ball by the basket when another questionable offensive foul was called. King once again responded for the Saints, this time knocking down a three-pointer to give Siena a 65-59 lead with 3:57 left in the ball game.
When asked about the offensive fouls during the postgame press conference Baggett initially said “I won’t comment on that.” But the veteran head coach quickly changed his mind.
“I didn’t think they were fouls,” Baggett said bluntly after the loss. “I thought in particular, Dontrelle’s was an and-one. Next thing I know they were going down the other end. We’ll take a look at it on film again, but they were very questionable to me.”
The calls and the baskets that followed were the catalyst of an 11-0 Siena run that saw Rider trailing by 11 with 2:16 remaining and very little chance to win the game.
The loss brings Rider’s record to 3-6 in conference play and keeps them near the bottom of the MAAC.
Rider will try to pull out a win and secure a split in its series against Siena -who might have Pickett back- at home on Jan. 16 at 7 pm.
Follow Shaun Chornobroff on Twitter for for the latest news on Rider men’s basketball.