Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rider 82, Manhattan 79: 5 Observations

Kevin Baggett now has Rider tied for first place in MAAC after overtime win against Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of Rider University)

The traditional handful of observations and nuggets of note after Rider improved to 6-2 in MAAC play, and 12-7 overall, after an 82-79 overtime victory against reigning league champion Manhattan:
  • This doesn't look like your typical Broncs team.
In the past, Rider had been offensively challenged against both Manhattan and other perennial residents at the top of the leaderboard, but this afternoon was far from such an assumption. Shooting 57 percent from the field, the Broncs carved up the paint to the tune of a 52-36 edge in interior scoring. A great deal of this was the mismatch created by seven-foot center Matt Lopez, who let the game come to him with 11 points and eight rebounds after being plagued by foul trouble for most of regulation play. On the other side of the ball, Rider turned 19 Jasper turnovers into 30 points, relying on six steals from Teddy Okereafor to key the defensive success.
  • Speaking of Okereafor...
It's easy to see that the Englishman still has the VCU influence in him, even after he transferred from Richmond last season. Having played his first two years as a backup to Briante Weber in Shaka Smart's patented "Havoc" system, the aggressive mentality has carried over with him into Lawrenceville in this, his junior campaign, and his 16-point, 7-assist, 6-steal, 4-rebound performance was very VCU-esque. "I just talked to him about having a clear mind," Kevin Baggett said after the game. "I think he's pressing himself a little bit, he knows he's one of our better players, and he showed up today."
  • Manhattan showed encouraging signs going into their next two games.
Considering the road ahead doesn't get any easier for the Jaspers, with a duo of deceptively strong games at Quinnipiac and then at home against Monmouth, Manhattan's 12 offensive rebounds were a step in the right direction, given how the Jaspers managed just two against Saint Peter's on January 7. Although only able to get to the free throw line 29 times, making 21 of those attempts, Manhattan also tied a season high with a 50 percent (26-for-52) shooting effort despite just falling short.
  • Stars of the game:
With the NHL All-Star Game coming up, we'll pay homage to our friends on the ice by picking the three standouts from this affair: First, the duo of Emmy Andujar and Shane Richards outdid themselves yet again, each scoring 21 points. For Andujar, who went down with what looked to be a serious leg injury only to return several minutes later, the afternoon showcased yet again just how much of a warrior he has been over four years in Riverdale; whereas Richards eclipsed the 20-point plateau for a third straight game, and fifth to date on the year. The third star will go to Khalil Alford, Rider's swingman who chipped in with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, solidifying his case for the MAAC's Sixth Man of the Year Award. "He's that guy that could just come off the bench and give us any number of minutes in any number of positions," Baggett said of Alford. "I give him credit, because sometimes, he doesn't play as much as he'd like to, but he still stays in it."
  • Thursday evening just got a lot more important.
Alumni Gym will now prepare for its biggest game to date, as Rider heads home with sole possession of first place on the line against Iona, who split their annual trip to western New York, eclipsing Niagara by one point before falling short against Canisius this afternoon. The Broncs catch a break against Tim Cluess' Gaels, who are without the services of Isaiah Williams, who is out for an undetermined amount of time with a foot injury. Winners of ten of their last twelve after a 2-5 start, and seeking retribution for a 13-point loss at the Hynes Center on December 10, Rider could serve notice that they are at the top to stay with a statement performance.

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