By Josh Veltrie
The men’s basketball team took on Pittsburgh, the number three team in the nation, with the hope of taking down another big name school on the road. The Broncs, however, were overmatched in an 87-68 loss on Saturday. Rider (6-4 overall, 1-1 MAAC) followed up the defeat with an impressive 81-39 home victory over UMBC (0-8) on Wednesday.
Against Pittsburgh (10-0), senior Mike Ringgold was able to dominate the bigger front court by scoring a career-high 24 points. Ringgold connected on 12 of his 16 field goal attempts while also contributing four rebounds and two assists.
“[Pitt] played Mike one on one the entire game and he’s hard to play one on one against because he has so many good moves,” head coach Tommy Dempsey said.
In front of a packed arena of almost 9,000 fans, Rider managed to shoot the ball extremely well throughout the game, shooting 50 percent from the field. The Broncs shot an average 33 percent from three throughout the game and managed to equal the Panthers with the points in the paint with 34 apiece.
“I thought it was good. We competed hard for the 40 minutes,” Dempsey said. “We responded well.”
The difference in the game was the 14 turnovers Rider committed. Pittsburgh managed to capitalize, converting those turnovers into 22 points.
Senior Justin Robinson struggled in the first half with his matchup with one of the top guards in the country, junior Ashton Gibbs. The Pitt point guard held Robinson scoreless in the first half but the point guard from London managed to score 11 points in the second half. Juniors Novar Gadson and Brandon Penn also scored in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively.
The Panthers were led by senior Brad Wanamaker, who played alongside Ringgold in high school. He had 16 points and 11 assists, helping the Panthers hold a double-digit lead throughout the second half and managed to hold off a couple of small runs by the Broncs.
Dempsey could not have been happier with the performance put on by Rider against UMBC. Nine of the 10 players who were on the court throughout the game scored at least six points.
“Nobody took more than eight shots and it would have been an easy game for the guys to worry about their numbers and no one did that,” he said.
Penn led the well-balanced Rider attack with 13 points while sophomore Dera Nd-Ezuma had a career-high 12 points. Penn scored his points in just 24 minutes while Ezuma made five of the six field goals he attempted.
“Most people don’t know Dera had knee surgery in the pre-season and didn’t start practicing again until right before the UMass game,” Dempsey said. “It was nice to be able to get him some playing time, and he played really well.”
As a team, Rider scorched the nets, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and 44 percent from three. Robinson and freshmen Anthony Myles and Tommy Pereira had nine points apiece while Ringgold had seven points and six rebounds in the win.
“The freshmen and [Ezuma] really came up big,” Robinson said. “Especially Dera, he played his best college game Wednesday night.”
However, Rider did not start off the game as planned, trailing 7-0 after the first couple minutes of action before going on a 32-2 run that blew the game open for the Broncs.
“I think we all came together and played selfless,” Robinson said. “We realize that we have to play well together in order to be a good team.”
Rider’s defense was the key in the victory, holding UMBC to just 29 percent from the field and 22 percent from three. The Broncs also did a good job of not fouling the Retrievers. UMBC attempted eight free throws and made only three of them. On the other side, the Broncs attempted 26 free throws and made 19 of them, going 71 percent at the charity stripe.
Rider entered the game leading the MAAC in field goal percentage (.490) and three-point percentage (.433), and its three-point percentage ranked 25th in the country.
Rider travels to take on Drexel (5-1) Saturday at 4 p.m. before hosting Monmouth on Wednesday at 7 p.m.