By David Nugent
The shorthanded Broncs lost to first place Iona (21-6, 13-3 MAAC) on Wednesday night at Alumni Gym, 75-62, dropping their record to 11-17 (8-8 MAAC) on the season heading into BracketBuster weekend.
The Broncs were without senior Jeff Jones, who was suffering from the effects of the norovirus, which worked its way through campus. Senior Novar Gadson sat out for a violation of team rules.
Head Coach Tommy Dempsey was impressed with the effort from Rider considering the circumstances.
“I thought we showed a lot of guts playing a little shorthanded,” Dempsey told Rider Sports Information.
The turning point came at the beginning of the second half when the Gaels went on a 19-3 run out of the gate. During that span, Iona’s junior forward Taaj Ridley contributed nine of his 13 total points. He also grabbed six rebounds.
“We had that unfortunate scoring drought to start the second half and we allowed them to take the game over a bit,” Dempsey told Rider Sports Information.
The Broncs were led by a career-high 21 points from sophomore Anthony Myles. Trailing 29-25, the Broncs went on a 12-3 run over the final 6:10 of the first half, with five points coming from sophomore Danny Stewart.
“We played a good first half,” Dempsey told Rider Sports Information. “We shot 50 percent. Our assists were up. Our defensive intensity was good and we were leading on the glass. The things we needed to do in this game, we did in the first half.”
Rider started fast, jumping out to an 11-5 lead. Myles scored nine of those points with three three-pointers.
“We just need to beat one of the top teams going into the [MAAC] Tournament,” Myles told Rider Sports Information. “We let one slip away tonight. But we still have Loyola and Fairfield. We need to beat one of them to get us in a nice spot.”
The Broncs will travel to Albany on Saturday to take on the Great Danes at 7 p.m. for the 10th annual Sears BracketBuster game.
The Great Danes (16-13, 8-7 America East) come into the game in fourth place of the America East conference, and have lost four of their last five games. Albany lost a 50-47 decision to Vermont on Wednesday and its last win came against Maine, 76-68, on Feb. 11.
Albany is led by junior Gerardo Suero, who is the nation’s fifth-ranked scorer at 22 points per game. The 6’4” guard has made 201 field goals in 28 games. Junior Logan Aronhalt is Albany’s second-leading scorer with an average of 14.6 points per game and junior Mike Black scores 13 points per game.
The MAAC issued suspensions and a reprimand Monday stemming from clock and replay mismanagement that cost Rider a victory at Niagara on Feb. 11. Junior Jonathon Thompson appeared to have hit a three-point buzzer-beating shot to give Rider a win, but after a long review, the call was overturned and Niagara was awarded the win. Replays showed that the clock started before Rider inbounded the ball.
In response, the officials from that game have been suspended one game by the MAAC, according to a conference press release.
“This was an unfortunate situation that we feel cost our basketball team a well-earned conference victory on the road,” Director of Athletics Don Harnum told Rider Sports Information. “However, I am comfortable with the way the MAAC handled these unusual circumstances.”
Myles understands the Broncs let one get away, but feels they are in position to go into March on a positive note.
“We know what we’re capable of,” Myles told Rider Sports Information.