By Rob Rose
The men’s basketball team nearly upset the Providence Friars, a prominent Big East opponent with NCAA Tournament experience, losing 88-84 on Nov. 29.
The Broncs’ four-game winning streak ended with consecutive losses to Providence and Drexel last week.
In the game against Providence, Rider had a chance to tie the game on a three-point attempt by sophomore guard Stevie Jordan with 16 seconds left, but his shot fell short off the front iron and Providence held on for the victory.
The score was back and forth early as the two teams traded baskets, until a 13-2 run by Providence put them out in front.
In the final seconds of the first half, Jordan hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 10 points.
To open the second, Rider trimmed the lead to five on a three-pointer by freshman forward Frederick Scott and a layup by freshman forward Dimencio Vaughn.
Scott posted his third double-double of the season in the loss to Providence, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Later in the half, a three-point play from sophomore center Tyere Marshall and a three-pointer from freshman guard Jordan Allen capped off a 10-2 run by Rider to take the lead.
“I’m encouraged by our guys,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “If there’s one thing that I’ve come to learn about this team, it’s that they’re going to compete, they’re going to battle night in and night out, regardless of what name is on the [opponent’s] uniform.”
The lead changed three more times throughout the game, with the Broncs’ last lead coming on a fast-break layup by Allen with 5:43 left in to play.
The Friars took advantage of Rider’s lack of height by forcing the ball into the paint and drawing fouls. Although the Broncs made 17 of 18 free throws, the Friars still outscored them by seven points at the foul line, because they had much more attmepts.
Scott, a 6-foot-7 forward, and Marshall, a 6-foot-8 center, struggled to deny the Providence frontcourt from getting to the foul line. Forward Rodney Bullock scored seven of his 23 points, five from the foul line, in the final five minutes, highlighting a 9-0 spurt by Providence.
A pair of free-throws by Jordan with 28 seconds left cut the Friars’ lead to one. After a foul on junior guard Anthony Durham, Providence hit a pair of free throws to increase the lead to 84-81.
On the ensuing possession for Rider, Jordan dribbled around looking to make a play before pulling up for a deep three-pointer that was off the mark.
“It’s not a bad shot, but we could’ve gotten a better one. We were trying to execute a little better. But at the end of the day, I’m going to live and die with Stevie and some of these other guys that I trust to take the shot. Stevie’s made big shots for us,” said Baggett.
Providence grabbed the rebound and after a foul on Jordan, hit a pair of foul shots to put the game out of reach.
Allen hit a three-pointer at the buzzer but the Broncs fell, 88-84.
After scoring a career-high 28 points against the Friars, including five three-pointers, Allen was named MAAC Rookie of the Week for the third consecutive week, and is averaging 18.1 ppg while shooting 47 percent from three-point range and 92 percent at the foul line.
The Broncs went back on the road Dec. 2 for a matchup with the Drexel Dragons. Marshall and Vaughn were the two lone bright spots in the loss, posting career-highs of 23 and 20 respectively.
Drexel got off to a hot start, opening up a 13-point lead behind strong play from Tramaine Isabell. Isabell scored a career-high 35 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Dragons.
Rider bounced back with a run of its own to end the first half, holding Drexel without a field goal for the final 6:30 of the period and outscoring the Dragons 18-6.
A three-pointer at the buzzer by sophomore forward Devine Eke gave the Broncs a 41-39 lead heading to the locker room. Rider has scored on the last possession of the first half in each of its eight games this season.
The lead changed hands in the early stages of the second half before an 8-0 Drexel run pushed them out in front.
Rider countered with a 9-1 burst of its own including six of Marshall’s 20 second-half points to trim the lead to two points with 3:30 left to play.
The Dragons responded and took control of the game behind more stellar play from Isabell and Drexel hung on for an 89-77 victory.
“I said to the group yesterday that I wouldn’t be very surprised if we lost today,” said Baggett. “Because this is where you have your youth and they think that they’ve had a little success and they’re just going to show up and everybody is just going to fall down to us.”
Allen and Scott, two of the team’s leading scorers each added 10 points, the lowest output of the season for Allen.
“That helped us get focused,” said Allen. “That game really put us in our place.”
Jordan was held out of practice on Dec. 5 with an apparent lower-body injury. He was seen wearing a walking boot.
Rider will travel to Robert Morris on Dec. 6 before returning home to battle Hofstra at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9.
The Broncs begin MAAC play on Dec. 29 at Canisius. Conference play gets underway later this season after a decision to cut down conference games from 20 to 18 this year.