LAWRENCEVILLE – The MAAC meat grinder has for years challenged its share of the Rider men’s basketball team, but several crossings were as important as Friday night’s game.
The bronzes rose and answered the call.
Breaking away from three terrific three losses with a total of nine points, Ryder started strong in defense and held on to the end to beat Niagara, 70-68, at the Alumni Gymnasium.
The victory pushed Ryder (11-16, 7-10) from ninth to sixth out of four, and there were only three games left before the conference tournament in Atlantic City.
“The coach keeps telling us that we ended up playing with a lot of teams and not losing at all, so we can still win this league,” said senior guard Dwight Murray Jr. “No one ever gave up.”
Murray topped eight of Ryder’s top scorers when the Bronx scored 46.6 per cent overall, despite a score of 2 to 13 on 3. They also won the rebound battle with an advantage of seven and scored 40 points.
However, most of the night the story was a defense.
Rider limited Niagara (12-14, 7-10) to 21 points in the first half – half of what he gave up when he had to cut 17 from a break in the break to win the first meeting on January 23 in New York.
“We just focused on that,” head coach Kevin Baguette said. “We’ve been working on some different things that we’ve made some adjustments to when teams sometimes try to isolate us – things like that. I thought everyone was closed in defense and understood who we should try to keep as much as possible. “
Murray and Allen Powell have turned the bulk of a key defensive assignment to Marcus Hammond. The second-ranked MAAC scorer was left without points in the first half, but scored 18 points in the second half, including 12 in the final 3:13.
“It was just a trifle: just stay ahead, not help lag behind and just play – if you switch, and if you do not switch,” – said Murray. “Everyone was talking on the platform, too.”
The rider broke away with his first double-digit advantage when Adjira Ogemuna-Johnson intercepted and Dimensio Vaughn scooped up in a duel, making the score 44-33 from 10:29 to the end.
The crowd intensified when Ogemuna-Johnson broke out on the back dock and then Murray made a hook to increase the lead to 13 at 4:14.
“During training, the guys try to tell me to soak at every opportunity,” Ogemuna-Johnson said. “For us, it’s more of a change of momentum. So when I get a chance to do that – sometimes I just want to get two points, but I think if I can soak it up and give my team the momentum we need to get back into defense, and the energy I need, I could how good to do it. “
But Niagara staged a fierce rally, committing fouls and inflicting major blows.
Hammond reduced the deficit to five with three free throws of the remaining 1:50, and then drained two 3-pointers as Ryder held ahead with a score of 64-61 with 30 seconds on the clock.
Beghett said the plan was to prevent Hammond from breathing and make him go down. However, it was difficult to completely cancel the hairpin within 40 minutes.
“They go like Hammond, and obviously you saw the shots he made. He can leave, ”Baguette said. “If he makes one, he can get into the rhythm pretty quickly. And I saw it against Marist when Marist went up to 20, and then, as you learn, he starts doing a bunch of threes. ”
Niagara missed two free throws after Hammond’s 3, but then reduced the deficit to two points as a result of Greg Quakumens ’triple, with four daws left.
Powell and Mervyn James helped Ryder survive by making six free throws in the last 25 seconds.
The rider concludes the regular season with a Sunday morning against Jonah, an away game at Fairfield next Thursday and then another home game on Saturday against Manmouth.
“We have never doubted ourselves from the first game and before this game that we have a good team,” said Baguette. “Some of the mistakes we made over time have cost us that we were top in the league. We really need to finish these three next games. We have two more at home. We really need to win our home games and we need to close that case and get some momentum in the tournament. ”