By Carlos Toro
With only a few games remaining in the regular season, the men’s basketball team was bested twice in the past two games.
In front of more than 1,500 people at Alumni Gym, the Broncs (11-18, 7-11 MAAC) lost to Siena 84-64 on Feb. 19 and then lost Marist 71-58 on Feb. 23.
Though Alumni Gym was filled with Rider students decked out in white for BroncFest, it was Siena’s offense that was white hot, shooting 52 percent from beyond the arc.
Head Coach Kevin Baggett said after the game that the team’s defense was lackluster and needs to make improvements on all aspects.
“We have to work on everything defensively,” Baggett said. “Guarding the three-point line, blocking out, rebounding, we need to work on everything.”
After Rider scored the opening two points and led 4-2 after 90 seconds, Siena (19-9, 12-5 MAAC) went on a 13-4 scoring run that had the Saints up by five points.
Although Rider did close the gap and retook the lead on a jumper made by senior guard Shawn Valentine, Siena’s three-point shooting propelled the Saints to a double-digit lead for most of the remainder of the first half.
Siena’s offense didn’t stop there. Entering the second half, the Saints were leading by 10 and doubled that lead just 6:11 into the closing half.
The closest Rider could get to Siena’s lead in the second half was 12 points, but Siena junior forward Brett Bisping’s 24 points ensured the Broncs could not recover from such a big deficit.
Senior guard Zedric Sadler did not play against Siena because of a high ankle sprain and is listed as day to day, according to Baggett.
While the injury was a blow to the team, senior guard Khalil Alford, who had 18 points in the loss to Siena, thought everyone had to pick up the pace to make up for the loss.
“We all need to step up, especially on the defensive side,” Alford said. “[Sadler] is such a big part of the team. We just have to work harder at making contributions to the team.”
The Broncs then traveled to Marist, (6-22, 2-16 MAAC) which entered the game on a five-game losing streak, on Feb. 23. Both teams struggled offensively at the start of the game.
Graduate guard Teddy Okereafor had a poor start in the first 10 minutes, scoring no points and committing two turnovers.
Both team’s offenses got into a rhythm after they shot under 40 percent in the opening minutes of the first half.
Junior center Kahlil Thomas, who entered the game with 11 double-doubles, was very limited on the offensive side, only getting two shot attempts in the first half finishing with just four points in the game.
The team shot 4 for 14 to start the game but they made six straight shots to take the lead.
Rider’s three-point shooting helped the lead take the lead for the first when junior guard Jimmie Taylor made a three-pointer with 6:20 left in the first half.
Even with injuries hitting the team, it didn’t stop Rider from producing well on offense. Seven different Broncs scored in the first half, including a career-high four points for redshirt freshman guard Josh Williams.
Williams gave the Broncs a four-point lead and momentum heading into halftime when he scored on a fast break layup in the closing seconds of the first half.
But the momentum did not carry over as Rider intended. Marist stopped Rider’s offense when freshman guard David Knudsen made a three-point shot that started a 12-2 scoring run, which gave the Red Foxes the lead for the first time in the second half with 15:30 remaining in the game.
Rider’s offense started to unravel as the team did not find a go-to man to carry the good offensive start. Marist slowly kept increasing its lead, finalizing in a Red Foxes victory.
Taylor finished with 15 points, and junior forward Xavier Lundy had 12 points and seven rebounds in the loss.
The team only has two more games remaining in the regular season. The first is a rematch at Monmouth (23-6, 15-3 MAAC), which beat Rider by one point earlier in the season, on Feb. 26. The Broncs then end the regular season at home when they take on Manhattan (12-14, 9-8 MAAC) on Feb. 28.
Baggett stresses the importance of playing well just a few weeks before the MAAC Tournament, but at the same time wants the team to get over the loss.
“We’re going to come back tomorrow and get better, work on everything that we did wrong and be ready to play the next game,” Baggett said.