Courtesy of GoBroncs.com
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, NY- To be the best, you have to beat the best. With one game remaining, the Rider Broncs are still in the hunt to be the best, after twice now beating the best.
The Broncs defeated first place Niagara for the second time this year in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game Thursday night. “We match up well with Niagara,” said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. “They are a high-powered offense and are hard to defend with a number of weapons but we have a number of guys who can sit down and play defense.”
The victory was the fourth in a row for Rider (17-13, 11-6 MAAC) with one game remaining. A Rider victory Saturday along with some help and Rider could be cutting down some nets as the regular season champion.
“If you are going to have a chance you have to peak at the right time,” Baggett said. “What a great team win tonight. Holding Niagara’s offense to under 60 points is something special.”
It was just the second time this season Niagara failed to score 60. Niagara defeated Marist 57-54 two weeks ago.
Trailing 44-42, Rider went on a 15-1 run, eight points by senior Jonathon Thompson (Orlando, Fla./Jones), to take a 57-45 lead with 8:00 left to play. Thompson made three of four foul shots in the final minute to preserve the victory and finished with 25 points, one shy of his career high.
“Being my last two games, I’m obviously going out and giving it my all,” Thompson said. “Tonight was about keeping alive our chances to win the regular season title.”
Rider junior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) compiled 14 points and 14 rebounds for his sixth ‘double-double’ of the season and the 13th of his career. “That’s really been my goal lately, to get double digits in rebounds,” Stewart said. “I’m just going to the glass trying to clean it up the best I can.”
Niagara (17-12, 12-5 MAAC) went on a 10-2 run, five points by sophomore guard Juan’ya Green, to take a 44-42 lead with 11:40 remaining. Green finished with 27 points.
A three-pointer by Green with 1:28 remaining cut the lead to 63-59, before the Broncs made five of six foul shots to end the game.
Rider out-scored Niagara 9-0 over the final 4:20 of the first half, three points by junior Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech), to take a 28-26 lead at the half. Myles finished with six points.
Niagara used a 7-0 run, five points by Green, to take 26-19 lead after 15 minutes of play.
Rider out-rebounded Niagara 44-39 and held the high-scoring Purple Eagles to just 59 points. “Our guys really competed tonight in a physical battle,” Baggett said. “I couldn’t be prouder of this group. They defend.”
The Broncs defeated Niagara 72-69 at Rider this year.
Rider and Niagara have now met 37 times since the series began in 1991-92, with Rider winning 17, including seven of the last eight and nine of the last 12.
Rider stays in Western New York to play Canisius in Buffalo Saturday afternoon in the regular season finale.
One last chance to be the best.