By Austin Ferguson
A fierce game that saw the men’s basketball team operate from behind for most of the contest led to a win over Saint Peter’s on Jan. 24, 70-66.
Rider returned to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, after it lost two of its last three games, all on the road. The Broncs were defeated by Niagara on Jan. 17 and Canisius on Jan. 19, which brought their record to 3-4 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play.
For its first home game in two weeks, Rider was up against Saint Peter’s, which pulled off an upset victory against Quinnipiac in its last game on Jan. 18. The Peacocks were led by freshman forward Hassan Drame, who scored 17 points in the victory and earned his second MAAC Rookie of the Week on Jan. 20.
In the Broncs’ loss to Canisius, it was senior center Tyere Marshall that was the focus of the offense as he scored 31 points en route to the defeat.
The first seven minutes of the game against Saint Peter’s was neck-and-neck. Both Rider and the Peacocks hit four shots to begin the game, though all of Saint Peter’s made shots were from three compared to Rider’s one three pointer, which put the Peacocks up 12-9.
Three of Saint Peter’s threes were hit by guard Matthew Lee, who was perfect from beyond the arc with his first three shots.
Out of the first media break, it was Hassan Drame, playing off of the bench behind his twin brother, forward Fousseyni Drame, who hit another three for Saint Peter’s to put it up by six. Redshirt junior forward Frederick Scott answered with a layup, which was answered with a dunk from Saint Peter’s guard Dallas Watson.
Saint Peter’s guard Aaron Estrada hit a jumper and forward KC Ndefo hit a pair of free throws to quickly put the Peacocks up by 10 with 10 minutes to go in the first half.
Following a made free throw from Watson, redshirt junior forward Dimencio Vaughn hit a shot to put an end to Saint Peter’s 13-2 extended run. A pair of made free throws from senior guard Stevie Jordan brought Rider’s deficit down to seven at the under-eight media timeout.
Out of the timeout, Saint Peter’s guard Doug Edert nailed a deep three to put the Peacocks back up by 10. Graduate student guard Willy Nunez, Jr. was fouled right after on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws to bring the lead back down to seven.
A three-minute scoring drought for both teams ended with a three pointer made by Vaughn to bring the score to 29-23 with two and a half minutes to go in the first half.
A Saint Peter’s turnover led to Nunez taking advantage with a made jumper to narrow the Peacocks’ lead to three. Edert answered the jumper with a made three, which was followed by a made jumper from Jordan to end the half with Rider behind 34-30.
Saint Peter’s cooled off significantly in the last segment of the half, making just one of its last eight shot attempts to finish the half. Lee’s early nine points were good to lead all Peacocks’ scorers. Vaughn led all scorers with 10 points in the first half off of 4-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 shooting from three.
Rider was dominated by Saint Peter’s in the first half on the boards. The Peacocks outrebounded the Broncs in that period, 20-11.
Freshman guard Christain Ings started the second half with a layup to bring the Rider deficit down to two, but it was quickly followed by Lee’s fourth three-point shot of the game and an and-one layup and free throw from Ndefo to put Saint Peter’s back up by eight.
The Peacocks’ lead was soon brought back down to five from a Scott three pointer, which was again followed by a Saint Peter’s layup, this time from Fousseyni Drame and the Peacocks led, 42-35.
After both sides traded baskets, Estrada hit a three and Scott turned the ball over, forcing Baggett to call timeout with the Broncs down 49-40 with 13 minutes to go.
The Broncs came out of the timeout with a surge of energy and tough play. Ings made a layup off of a Vaughn steal and a full-court Rider press forced a five-second inbound violation for Saint Peter’s, which Rider took advantage of with a Randall three, forcing Saint Peter’s to call a timeout of its own with the score at 49-45 with 12 minutes left in the half.
Saint Peter’s tacked on to its lead with a three from guard Daryl Banks, which was answered with a mid-range jumper from Randall and made free throws from Scott to bring the lead down to four.
Vaughn’s third steal of the game turned into an open dunk for the Broncs, which brought Saint Peter’s lead down to just two at the under-eight media timeout.
A Jordan steal gave an open lane for Vaughn, who was quickly fouled on a layup attempt. Vaughn made both free throws and with six minutes to go, the game was tied at 58.
Saint Peter’s Cameron Jones came up the court and made a layup to retake the lead. Jones was then fouled by Jordan, who was visibly upset by the foul call, leading to a technical foul being assessed to Jordan. Jones made two free throws and the Peacocks’ lead was again four.
Rider quickly stopped the bleeding with an and-one layup from Scott. Scott made the free throw to make the score 62-61 with five minutes to go. The score also pushed Scott past 1,000 career points.
Though the milestone has been reached, Scott was not too concerned about it.
Scott said, “I heard the announcer say it, but at the same time it was a close game … A few people on our team scored their 1000th point before, but we didn’t come away with the win, so it was kind of hard to celebrate it.”
After a foul, Ings made both free throws and for the first time in the second half, Rider had the lead with under four minutes left in the game.
On the other end, Banks was fouled by Randall, sending him to the line to make two free throws and retake the lead. On the Broncs’ next possession, Vaughn drew a foul from Hassan Drame and made 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game at 64.
Fousseyni Drame made a jumper to again put the Peacocks ahead. After a turnover and a defensive stop for Rider, the Broncs called timeout with under two minutes to go.
Out of the timeout, Jordan nailed a three to re-establish a lead for the Broncs.
After a series of back-and forth play, Saint Peter’s had the ball with just 20 seconds remaining. Lee went up for a layup, which he missed, leading to a scramble for the ball that gave possession to the Broncs with 15 seconds to go.
As soon as Rider inbounded the ball, Jordan was fouled by Hassan Drame. The foul was his fifth, putting him out for the remainder of the game.
At the free throw line, Jordan made a free throw to put the Broncs up two with 12 seconds left as Saint Peter’s called timeout.
Out of the timeout, Saint Peter’s was unable to capitalize as Banks stepped out of bounds with three seconds to go. Randall was subsequently fouled and made both free throws to ice the game for Rider, winning 70-66.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Baggett said. “But we found a way to win.”
Vaughn led the way for the Broncs with 15 points, six rebounds and five steals. Three other Rider players scored in double figures, with Scott, Jordan and Randall scoring 13, 12 and 12 points respectively.
The win for the Broncs brought their conference record to 4-4, good for sixth in the MAAC.
Despite the win, Baggett saw quite a bit of room for improvement.
“Too many turnovers, too many empty possessions, we have to execute better,” said Baggett.
Rider hits the road again on Jan. 26 to play Manhattan at 2 p.m. The matchup will be the first between the two MAAC teams this season.