Teddy Okereafor's 16 points led five Rider players in double figures as Broncs edged Manhattan 82-79. (Photo courtesy of Rider University)
When assessing his team's matchup with Rider after narrowly defeating Saint Peter's two days ago, Steve Masiello admitted Manhattan would have their hands full with the Broncs, whom the coach said were playing the best basketball of any team in the MAAC.
Rider (12-7, 6-2 MAAC) needed their best effort this afternoon, as five Broncs ended the afternoon in double figures to end Manhattan's four-game winning streak in overtime, defeating the Jaspers (8-9, 5-3) by the final of 82-79, handing the reigning MAAC champions their first home loss since January 26 of last year, which came; ironically enough, in overtime against Quinnipiac, whom Manhattan faces next on Friday.
"Give Rider credit," a subdued Masiello said after Emmy Andujar's attempt at a potential game-winning basket was denied in the final seconds of overtime after charging down the floor on a possession the coach hoped his senior forward would be able to come off a pick-and-roll on. "They made a winning play, we didn't."
Andujar's 21 points tied Shane Richards for the game high, with Ashton Pankey adding 18 of his own in the losing effort, while Teddy Okereafor's 16 points led the quintet of Rider players with double-digit scoring totals.
Manhattan jumped out of the gate quickly, scoring the game's first seven points and leading by as many as nine before Rider, who shot 57 percent (35-for-61) from the field, went on a 15-5 run in the latter portion of the first half to take the lead. The Jaspers would poke their heads in front again before the intermission, but it was the Broncs who took a 37-36 cushion into the locker room.
Rider led by as many as five when a 6-2 spurt out of the half gave the Broncs a 43-38 advantage, but an 11-2 Manhattan run swung the momentum back into the hands of the Jaspers for most of the second half, until the Broncs punched back with a 12-3 outburst that turned a 62-56 deficit into a 68-65 lead with 4:20 to play in regulation. A 7-2 Manhattan surge, keyed by a three-pointer from Donovan Kates with 2:25 left in the second half, put the Jaspers ahead 72-70, but baskets from Jimmie Taylor and Matt Lopez put the Broncs at the point before a Pankey layup tied the score at 74 inside the final minute of regulation.
Pankey missed an ensuing three-point play opportunity, but the Jaspers forced a stop when Zedric Sadler's three-pointer with 32 seconds on the clock fell short. Andujar had his first chance to win the game on the ensuing trip down the floor, but a layup attempt bounced off the backboard. Sadler's desperation heave at the buzzer cut through the Riverdale air, sending Manhattan to an extra five minutes for the second straight game, and Rider into overtime for the first time this season.
Lopez struck first after the jump, with a layup 30 seconds into the five-minute bonus period, but was answered by Richards' fifth three of the day, which turned out to be Manhattan's final field goal. Khalil Alford's jumper with 3:46 remaining gave Rider the lead for good, as the Broncs capped off a 6-2 run on a steal by Okereafor on Andujar's aforementioned final rally. The former VCU guard swished home two free throws to provide the final margin for Rider, who now returns home with sole possession of the MAAC lead hanging in the balance Thursday evening against Tim Cluess and Iona.
"This team is finding ways to win," Broncs head coach Kevin Baggett assessed. "We talked about coming up here and having to take this against a very tough opponent in Manhattan, and those guys beating us twice last year. I thought our guys just did a good job competing and understanding that."