Friday, March 3, 2017

Rider 69, Manhattan 68: 5 Observations

Aaron Walker throws down two-handed slam moments after coming up with a steal during Manhattan's ill-fated comeback against Rider. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

ALBANY, NY -- Jimmie Taylor's three-pointer with four seconds remaining in regulation, one that may have been a two with his foot on the line but too inconclusive to overturn, lifted Rider past Manhattan by the final of 69-68 and into the quarterfinals, where the Broncs will face reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Iona on Saturday. In the aftermath of the latest reprisal of "MAAC After Dark," we leave you with one last handful of takeaways from the Jaspers' final act of 2016-17 and offer some thoughts from the Rider perspective as well following a wild Thursday night journey into Friday morning at the Times Union Center.

1) Rider kept Zane Waterman under control, for the most part.
The junior forward, who torched the Broncs for 35 points at Draddy Gymnasium on January 13 and 30 at Alumni Gym on February 22, was held to just 15 points after a first half that saw him rack up two fouls in just 11 minutes of action. Rider head coach Kevin Baggett spoke of defending Waterman and Zavier Turner (11 points, 1-of-6 from the floor) in the days leading up to Thursday's game, and the extra attention in the game plan was carried out by the Broncs.

"They did a good job," Waterman admitted. "They were crowding me every time I got the ball. They did a good job defensively tonight."

2) The future remains bright for Aaron Walker as he ended his freshman season.
The Cardozo product tallied a game-high 18 points to finish his rookie campaign averaging 8.9 points per game and with four consecutive double-figure scoring efforts to serve up yet another glimpse of what he can ultimately become for the next three years.

"It's been a tough year for me," Walker said when surmising his first go-round at the collegiate level. "I feel like I learned a lot from everything that's happened this year and I'm just looking forward to next year."

3) Tyere Marshall set the tone on a career night to be Rider's biggest contributor before the Broncs' last-second heroics.
The freshman fouled out with 10:01 remaining in regulation, but his 15 points were a career best, accomplished on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting night. Of those 15, 11 came in an opening stanza where Rider drew fouls with great frequency, converting the whistles into a 13-for-15 performance at the charity stripe over the first 20 minutes.

"Tyere was huge," said Baggett of his reserve forward; who came into Thursday's contest averaging 3.8 points per game, and his impact. "I'm watching this young man grow up. He's got some big shoes to fill. He's just a guy that keeps things simple. For him to be a freshman and for him to have the impact in the MAAC, I don't think he realizes what he just did but he's a sponge. Every day, he's in our office wanting to know how he can get better, every day he's out on that court working with (assistant) Coach (Dino) Presley and all the other coaches. I'm happy for him. He's another young man that puts in the work."

4) Rider's foul shooting, though not the biggest story on Thursday, made an impact.
The Broncs, owners of the lowest free throw percentage in the MAAC entering the tournament, shot 24-for-30 at the charity stripe in their opening salvo in Albany. Three Rider players were perfect at the line, including senior and hero of the night Jimmie Taylor, who made all seven of his attempts. It also continued the incremental progress in making foul shots against Manhattan, building upon the 26-for-39 effort on February 22 in Lawrenceville, which; in turn, was an upward movement from a 17-for-29 showing in a January 13 loss at Draddy Gymnasium. In addition, it was Rider's second straight encouraging performance in that department, keeping a positive trend going on the heels of an 18-for-20 result last Sunday at Quinnipiac.

5) Tyler Wilson's finale.
In his Manhattan swan song, the senior scored 10 points in his 129th and final game, and had one of the more inspiring efforts of any player to wear the Jasper green and white Thursday. It was Wilson who showed the most heart down the stretch, playing like a man destined to extend his career by any means necessary, and his four-year determination provided a heartfelt and emotional sendoff from his head coach.

"He is so selfless," Steve Masiello stated, beginning an effusive praise of Wilson and his impact in Riverdale. "He sacrificed his body, his time, his success, for other people. He is the epitome of what you want from a student-athlete on and off the court: Model citizen, did everything right, leads the guys on the basketball court, so selfless."

"Never once did he come to me and say, 'Coach, what about my points, my touches?' All he cared about is 'How can we win? How can I impact this team?' I've already offered him a spot on my staff. I wish I had him for 20 more years. The way he is, that's why we won two championships. He's a big part of that."

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