By Carlos Toro
The Broncs (13-12, 9-7 MAAC) snapped a three-game losing streak to beat Fairfield (5-22, 2-14 MAAC) on Feb. 15, 71-62. It was the Broncs’ second to last road game of the regular season.
The game was a back-and-forth affair for the first 11 minutes of the contest, with the lead being no bigger than three points.
Head Coach Kevin Baggett did not underestimate Fairfield’s gameplay.
“You got to give Fairfield credit,” Baggett said. “They’re a better team than their record indicates.”
Fairfield broke the 19-19 tie with 4:57 left in the first half after a 3-pointer, and never lost the lead for the rest of the half.
Freshman forward Khalil Thomas tied the game to open the second half. However, the game continued to be close up until the final minutes of the game.
The last seven minutes saw the spotlight shine on senior forward Danny Stewart and freshman guard Jimmie Taylor. The combo scored Rider’s last 18 points starting with a layup by Taylor to cut Fairfield’s lead to one.
After another layup from Taylor to give the Broncs a 57-56 edge with 6:24 left in the game, the team never relinquished the lead.
Stewart finished with 20 points, making five of nine field goals, the first time in the last five games in which he shot above 50% from the field. Senior guard Anthony Myles finished with nine points, while Taylor and Thomas had 19 and 12 points, respectively.
The Broncs’ next three games are at home, starting with a contest against MAAC-leading Iona (17-8, 14-2 MAAC) on Feb. 21. That game can be watched on ESPNU. Then, Rider plays Siena (11-16, 7-9 MAAC) on Feb. 23 in a rematch from Jan. 4, which Rider lost on the road 62-47.
Sophomore guard Zedric Sadler wants to make sure that does not happen again.
“We’re ready to play,” he said with a confident look. “We’re going to play and we’re going to get better.”
Baggett has the team’s focus on Iona, making sure they are ready for a hard-fought battle against the MAAC’s best.
“We got to limit those guys,” Baggett said. “Iona has a bunch guys that can make a lot of shots. We have to do a good job running them off the three-point line. We got to make sure we crowd the ball. We’re playing them at home on Friday and hope we take advantage, but you’re talking about a first-place team that’s playing really well.”