By Rob Rose
The men’s basketball team won its home opener, 90-75 over Hampton, behind a breakout performance by redshirt freshman guard Jordan Allen. Rider then lost to No. 15 Xavier, 101-75 in a match-up in Cincinnati.
The Broncs found themselves trailing early in the game as the new starting lineup for Head Coach Kevin Baggett continued to build chemistry.
Allen led all Bronc scorers with 21 points. He hit five three-pointers on 12 attempts in his Rider debut, after sitting out last season.
Sophomore guard Stevie Jordan continued his impressive play from last season. Jordan scored 17 points while dishing out six assists and grabbing two steals, highlighted by a reverse lay up avoiding two Hampton defenders while on a fast break.
After a run of lead changes in the second half, the Broncs jumped in front on Allen’s fifth three-pointer of the game. The shot started a 14-4 run that would propel Rider to the victory.
In his debut for the Broncs after sitting out last season as a redshirt, freshman forward Frederick Scott posted a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds while adding two blocks and an assist.
On Nov. 13, Rider traveled to Xavier for a match-up with the No. 15 team in the nation, losing 101-75. The Musketeers come off a season where they reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed. The game was the first ever meeting between the two teams.
Returning for Xavier this season are senior guards Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura. Bluiett was named to the Preseason All-Big East First Team, while Macura was a Preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention.
The game opened how the experts predicted, with Xavier jumping out to an early lead. After a 10-2 run to start the game, Xavier led by 19, after a dunk by Naji Marshall pushing the Musketeers lead to 39-20 with 2:34 left in the first half.
The Broncs answered with a run of their own, closing the gap behind strong play from Scott and a three-pointer in the finals seconds of half by Allen to trim the deficit to 44-34 at halftime.
The second half was when Xavier flexed some muscle as one of this year’s elite teams in college basketball.
Allen connected on another three as play began in the second half and two free throws by junior guard Anthony Durham cut the Musketeer lead to just five at 49-44.
Xavier answered with a 17-2 run, and with the blink of an eye, the game was all but over. The Musketeers scored 101 for the second consecutive game to open their season — they defeated Moorhead State on Nov. 10 by a 52-point margin.
“I like the way our team competed. Obviously there are no moral victories, but I do like the way we competed,” said Baggett.
The Broncs continued to fight throughout the game and, despite the lopsided score, came away with a few bright spots to build on. Matching the Musketeers with 11 turnovers and totaling 15 assists against a national-champion-caliber team is a building block for the young Broncs.
Allen and Jordan led the scoring for Rider with 14 points each, and Jordan posted nine assists while Allen grabbed two steals.
“We know that we can compete against anybody in the country, now that we came in here and had it close. Now we can see where we’re actually at and can see growth in us,” said Allen.
Last year, Rider finished sixth in the MAAC with a 10-10 conference record. The team lost to eventual champion Iona in the MAAC quarterfinals. In Baggett’s five seasons as coach, his team has yet to overcome that round of the MAAC Tournament.
The Broncs are back at home on Nov. 15, when they take on Hartford at 7 p.m.