By Jason Smith
The men’s basketball team got back to a .500 record in the MAAC, splitting games against Loyola (MD) and Niagara.
The Broncs came into Friday night’s home game riding high along a three-game winning streak, only to fall short to the Greyhounds, 80-73. Rider bounced back to defeat Niagara in a come-from-behind fashion, 70-62 on Monday.
The Broncs had five players score in double figures and received another tremendous effort from junior Justin Robinson, but they couldn’t overcome a second half Greyhound surge. Robinson had a game-high 19 points to accompany his three rebounds and three steals.
“He gave us another good game,” Head Coach Tommy Dempsey said. “He’s put together a very good year, and tonight was no exception.”
Rider came out in front early, starting the game on a 15-4 run. Loyola quickly countered with a 16-0 run of its own, taking advantage of spotty perimeter defense. Of the 16 points, 12 came from three-pointers.
Senior Ryan Thompson added 14 points of his own to go along with six rebounds and three assists. This helped Rider crawl back into the game and go into halftime with a minimal edge, 45-43.
The Broncs could not match their first half effort as they appeared “a little bit stagnant and didn’t move the ball as well” early in the second half, according to Dempsey.
Rider shot a staggering 27.6 percent from the field in the second half, including 2-13 from beyond the three-point mark. It also shot just 66 percent from the line, going 10-15. Only trailing by two with just 2:35 remaining in the game, Rider still had a chance to win the game.
“We didn’t make the plays at the end,” Dempsey said. “The free throws and the open shots that we did have, we didn’t make.”
Dempsey did not attribute the loss to lack of effort, but instead gave credit to the Greyhounds.
“It was more a product of them playing well, than us playing bad,” he said.
The Broncs bounced back triumphantly on Monday night with an enormous home win against Niagara, solidifying sole possession of fifth place in the MAAC and sweeping the season series. They electrified the home crowd with a 70-62 victory.
Senior Ryan Thompson rose above all, scoring 31 points and adding seven rebounds. His 31 points tied a career-high and helped Rider recover from a vicious 14-point deficit heading into halftime.
Robinson added 14 points of his own in a supporting role and helped coordinate a 15-0 run late in the game, giving Rider a 55-51 lead with just under six minutes to play.
“Things just haven’t been real easy for us this year,” Dempsey said. “When you don’t have your best stuff, you have to find a way to grind out wins.”
The win was Rider’s fourth out of the last five games. The Broncs have four conference games left, three of which are in the comfort of their home gym. Their next game is against conference rival Fairfield tonight at 7 p.m. at Alumni Gym, on ESPNU.