By Brandon Scalea (@brandonscalea)
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ -- In a game that Rider tried desperately to give away in the final moments, the Broncs earned their first conference win of the season, topping Siena, 71-69.
Siena’s Nico Clareth had a chance to win the game with three seconds left after Marquis Wright hit him with a beautiful, no-look pass. Clareth’s wide-open three-point attempt was too strong, and the rebound fell into the hands of Rider’s Norville Carey as the horn sounded. Clareth was 0-for-8 from beyond the arc and the Saints were 1-for-19 as a team.
Rider head coach Kevin Baggett said he was happy with the win, but didn’t expect Siena to shoot so dismally.
“I’m proud of our guys tonight and we needed this win,” he said. “I don’t think Siena will ever shoot this poorly again. Tonight we had the chance to prove to people in the league where we stand, and we certainly needed this win because it was at home.”
In the first half, Xavier Lundy kept the Broncs in it. He knocked down 16 points and was 2-for-2 from three-point land, while Jimmie Taylor and Kahlil Thomas combined for just two points. Lundy finished with 20 points on the night.
The Saints led by as much as five in the early going, as Javion Ogunyemi finished a three-point play with just under eight minutes left in the first half. But every time the visitors threatened to pull away, the Broncs had an answer. The two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half, and Rider took a 37-35 lead off a nifty left-handed layup from freshman Tyere Marshall. At halftime, Siena headed to the locker room with a 44-43 lead.
In the second half, the Broncs were forced to play fast-paced — something they aren’t used to — as they battled to keep up with the Saints. Taylor came alive in the final 20 minutes, and hit a pair of big three-pointers from the corner. He finished 3-for-8 from the field, notching nine points and three rebounds.
Twice in the final half, Rider failed to hit the front-end of a one-and-one, both leading to 6-0 Siena runs. The Saints’ largest lead of the night was 65-58 with 5:47 left, but Rider quickly went on an 11-4 run to take a 69-68 lead with 3:14 left. They wouldn’t relinquish that lead.
Lundy said the team showed growth from last year, closing out a tight game.
“The end of the game was a little scary because last year, it seemed like whenever we were in these situations it always went the opposite way for us,” he said. “It seemed like today, whenever they got an offensive rebound or got another chance, we just stayed with it. We did a good job of staying locked in on defense and not getting upset.”
Through its first seven games, Rider is 4-3 and 1-1 in conference play, a terrific turnaround from last year’s 1-6, 0-2 start in its first seven. The win puts the Broncs in a nine-way tie for second-place in the MAAC, while Monmouth is the only 2-0 team and Manhattan is the only 0-2 team.
Rider’s next game will be on the West Coast on December 10, when it takes on Pacific University in Stockton, California, before returning home for another non-conference matchup against Kennesaw State on December 14.