Rider Advances in MAAC Tournament
SPRINGFIELD, MA. – No.8 Rider University men’s basketball team rallied in the second half from an eight point deficit to defeat No. 9 Monmouth University, 71-60, in the first round of the 2014 MAAC Men’s Basketball Championship.
It was the third time the two teams met this season with Rider winning the two regular season games, 89-83 and 77-71 (OT).
The Broncs (14-16) left the court at the end of the first half with a 33-25 lead, courtesy of an 8-0 run in the final two minutes of what was a see-saw, first battle between the local rivals.
The Hawks came out of the locker room in the second half with renewed energy and focus and under the leadership of Deon Jones (team high 18 points) took a 46-38 lead with a little over 11 minutes remaining in regulation.
“We got down in the second half, but we were always positive with the guys,” said Broncs second-year coach Kevin Baggett, who hails from Burlington, NJ. “Our guys hung tough and made some winning plays down the stretch and that’s what made the difference.”
Rider answered the challenge as senior Daniel Stewart (game high 25 points) sparked the game winning rally down the stretch for the Broncs.
“We stayed together as a team and didn’t get down,” said Stewart, who also led the Broncs with nine boards. “We were resilient as a team and right now we are 1-0 in the postseason.”
Anthony Myles added 13 points and freshman guard Jimmie Taylor III chipped in with 12.
Hawks third year coach King Rice thought his team played well but was victimized by 21 turnovers mostly due to the squad’s youth and inexperience in handling the Rider defensive pressure.
“I am very proud of our guys,” noted Rice, with an eye toward the future. “We are young and that cost us. I am pleased with the overall direction of our program, but we do need to focus on winning more games.”
There are no seniors on this year’s Monmouth roster which, in addition, was the Hawks first year playing in the MAAC.
Josh James added 11 points for Monmouth (11-21) and Andrew Nicholas chipped in with 10 in the losing effort.
The win puts the Broncs in the quarterfinal round against No.1 Iona (20-9), on Saturday, March 8 at 12 p.m.
In other first round action, No.7 St. Peter’s (14-16) edged No.10 Fairfield (7-25), 65-62 (OT) on Desi Washington’s 3-pointer as time expired in the first overtime session. It was the third time this year that Washington sank a shot at the buzzer to beat the Stags.
St. Peter’s next opponent will be No. 2 Manhattan (22-7). Tipoff is 6:30 p.m.
No. 11 Niagara (7-25) hung on to beat No. 6 Marist (12-19), 78-76, in last night’s final first round contest.
Niagara will face No. 3 Quinnipiac (19-10) on Saturday at 9:00 p.m.
The other quarterfinal game pits No.4 Canisius (20-11) and one of the country’s top scorers Billy Baron (24.4ppg) against No. 5 Siena (15-16) at 2:30 p.m.
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