By Carolo Pascale and Jacob Tiger
Rider men’s basketball secured its first pair of wins this past weekend, winning 81-69 over Coppin State on Nov. 12 and 63-53 against Delaware State on Nov. 14. Senior forward Dimencio Vaughn led the Broncs with 35 points between both games. This weekend puts the Broncs at 2-1 on the season as they have a long road trip coming up.
The Eagles land in the wrong nest
The Coppin State Eagles landed in Lawrenceville on Nov. 12, likely giving the 0-1 Broncs a slight boost to their confidence, as Rider looked to continue its historical dominance over the Eagles.
With an 81-69 win against Coppin State in its home opener, Rider did just that, improving their record against the Eagles to 4-0, while also getting back to .500 on the season.
However, Coppin State did not make it easy for the Broncs, continuously taking advantage of their slow defensive reflexes. “We gotta play better. We gotta keep moving,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “We’ve scored a lot of points but we’ve given up a lot of points too.”
While the Eagles were letting it fly from the arch, the Broncs made their money with grit and tenacity.
Coppin State was simply no match for Rider’s frontcourt of senior forward Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson and Vaughn, who each had great games, with their rebounding efforts in particular being the difference maker.
In the end, the Broncs outrebounded the Eagles 42-28, and as a result led 20-6 in second chance points.
“It was just one of those games. It was kinda ugly, but at the end of the day, we just found a way to win,” said Baggett.
Vaughn led the way, finishing with a game-high 23 points on excellent efficiency.
“[Vaughn is] a great addition for our team. He’s a leader, [he’s] energized and always talking on the court, and that’s what we needed last year. He’s a dog,” said senior guard Dwight Murray Jr.
Along with Vaughn’s 23 points, Murray Jr. joined in with 17 points and six rebounds, and junior guard Allen Powell put up 16 points and five assists. Vaughn, Murray Jr. and Powell all shot 50% from long range, making eight 3-pointers in total.
Even with some sloppy defense, the Broncs’ collective efforts were enough to get the job done, looking very solid while doing so.
“This team is great. We’re going to have a long season and everybody better watch out for us. I’m telling you now, everybody can doubt us all they want, but we’re gonna fight for each other,” said Vaughn.
Broncs avoid being stung by the Hornets
The Broncs had only one day of rest before they hit the court again against the Delaware State Hornets on Nov. 14. This was the Broncs’ final home game until Dec. 5 and it gave the Broncs a wake-up call as the Hornets nearly finished a comeback, but the Broncs held on to win 63-53.
“I thought Delaware State came in here and played their behinds off. They never quit. And I think we thought it was going to be easy. And so we always talk about respecting your opponent. So we got a lot of work to do,” said Baggett.
The scoring started slow, but one player was already making waves for the Broncs, that being Ogemuno-Johnson, who had the task of facing Delaware State’s 7-foot-3 center Chris Sodom down low and handled it well.
“My coach told me to show him the ball. And when I started doing this, I started to get easy layups. That’s all I needed to do, not play scared or afraid of him just because he’s taller than me,” said Ogemuno-Johnson.
Vaughn, another player who got involved for the Broncs, made a fantastic chase-down block with 3:30 left to go in the first half.
“I’m just a defensive-minded person. If I feel like they’re gonna score I’m gonna try my best,” said Vaughn.
The first half would end with the Broncs leading by six, 28-22. Shooting, which has been an issue this year, was the story of the half for Rider, going 10-for-36 from the field and 4-for-16 from the 3-point line.
The second half saw the Broncs working hard to hold and extend their lead, doing just that on a monster put-back dunk by Ogemuno-Johnson, who jumped over three Hornets players, including Sodom.
“That’s one thing about me is getting offensive rebounds and playing hard,” said Ogemuno-Johnson. “If there’s something that I have value on this team it’s to rebound the ball. And that’s one thing I do so I’m glad that I got to show that to the crowd today.”
The dunk started a 13-3 run for Rider, which could have been more, as Vaughn connected with Ogemuno-Johnson to almost pull off a ridiculous alley-oop dunk.
Once the final buzzer sounded, the Broncs finished with a 63-53 win, albeit a much closer finish than expected. Senior guard Jeremiah Pope led the Broncs with 14 points, having a great night while shooting 3-for-5 from the field, 2-for-4 from the 3-point line and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Ogemuno-Johnson finished with 12 rebounds and 10 points.
“It doesn’t matter where you go, we have got to focus whether we’re home, we’re on the road. We just got to be a team,” said Baggett.
The Broncs will now hit the road for a while as they take on Bucknell on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. and then head south for the Cancun Challenge on Nov. 20.