By Rob Rose
Despite posting its second-lowest point total of the season, the men’s basketball team was able to grind out its fifth-straight win to begin conference play with a 60-47 victory over Manhattan on Jan. 19.
“We found a way to still maintain and execute when we needed to,” said Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “[The game] wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win.”
Rider has started 5-0 in MAAC play for the second time in program history and trails only the 6-0 start by the 2000-01 team for the best record to open conference play in Rider history.
Although he came off the bench for a third-consecutive game, sophomore forward Dimencio Vaughn posted his best offensive performance since his return from an ankle injury on Jan. 11. Vaughn, a Preseason All-MAAC First Team selection, had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and hit four three-pointers in 32 minutes.
“Everyone thinks I look winded, but I’m not,” said Vaughn. “In the games I don’t feel winded, but people tell me [he looks winded] so I listen to them. I feel better.”
Both squads struggled to find their offense early, with the Broncs ahead 15-9 after the first 10 minutes, a far cry from the dominant effort they had in their previous game. Rider had a six-day layoff following its rout of Niagara, where it eclipsed 100 points for the first time since last year’s regular season finale against Iona on Feb. 25, 2018.
The Jaspers trailed by 11 with just under four minutes left in the first half, but trimmed the deficit to eight at the break. Late in the first half, junior guard Kimar Williams dribbled the final seconds off the clock before he fed junior center Tyere Marshall, who beat the buzzer with a jump shot from the free-throw line.
One of the factors that kept Rider in the lead was the points off turnovers it was able to generate. The Broncs entered the game No. 22 among Division I teams in turnovers forced with 17.06 per game, and in the victory they forced the Jaspers to cough up the ball 19 times to score 16 points.
After Rider increased its advantage to 14 with 12:13 left in the second half, Manhattan battled back and cut the Rider lead to 53-43 with 3:32 remaining. The Broncs responded with a three-pointer by sophomore forward Frederick Scott, who posted his eighth-straight double-digit scoring effort in the win with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Scott, who was named the NJhoops.com Division I Player of the Week on Jan. 14, maintained his role in the starting lineup despite Vaughn’s return to the lineup.
“If it’s not broke, you don’t fix it,” said Baggett. “Dimencio is a team player. I don’t care who starts, what is important is who finishes.”
Another Bronc that fits the definition of a team player is graduate student guard Anthony Durham. In his final season at Rider, Durham has posted a career-high in points at nearly eight-and-a-half points per game and had started each of the Broncs’ 17 games this season.
“Durham is our glue guy,” said Baggett. “He’s one of our captains, one of our leaders. He means a lot. I am proud of him because he’s a hard worker on-and-off the court and he’s exactly the epitome of what we want in our program.”
Rider’s next game is a big road test at the three-time defending MAAC Champions, Iona, on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.
“This season, every game is a big game,” said Vaughn. “Anybody can lose, so we’re just treating every game like a big game.”
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