Greetings from the Wachovia Center, where Rider and Saint Joe's are set to tip off in 65 minutes in the season opener.
Rider just finished its pregame shootaround, and the Hawks just took the floor for theirs.
I'm interested to see the extent to which the arena fills up when the gates open, which should be shortly.
Update, 7:00: We're a few minutes from tip time, and the lower bowl is starting to fill up. The biggest concentration of fans is in the Saint Joe's student center behind one of the baskets, and it looks like a pretty good turnout on their part. It looks like they chose, wisely, not to open the upper deck, excluding the luxury boxes. The Hawks have a pretty good band, a cheerleading squad, a dance team, and -- best of all, coming from a Fairfield grad -- a Jesuit on the bench.
Here are the starting lineups:
Rider: Matt Griffin, Harris Mansell, Ryan Thompson, Novar Gadson, Mike Ringgold
Saint Joe's: Tasheed Carr, Darrin Govens, Garrett Williamson, Idris Hilliard, Ahmad Nivins
Update, 7:14: So far, so good for the Broncs, who lead 9-0 with 16:59 left in the first half. Mike Ringgold got the Broncs on the board with a layup with 19:07 left. Novar Gadson tipped in his own miss to make it 4-0 with 18:36 left; Matt Griffin's 3 made it 7-0 with 18:05 left, and Ringgold's up-and-under layup made it 9-0, forcing Phil Marteli to burn a 30-second timeout.
Update, 7:17: Rider's lead is 12-4 at the under-16 media timeout, with 15:36 left in the first half. Saint Joe's got on the board with a pair of Ahmad Nivins free throws, Harris Mansell answered with a 3 from the right wing, and Idris Hillard's bucket made it 12-4. Rider's ball-movement has been outstanding.
Update, 7:28: It's 16-12 Broncs with 11:13 left in the first half. Saint Joe's has scored 10 of the last 14 points after Rider took a 12-2 lead, and if you're the Hawks, you've got to be happy with where the game is. Rider has hit a bit of a lull offensively, with one field goal in the past 4:35. Brandon Penn came in off the bench and has been replaced by Lamar Johnson.
Update, 7:39: A pair of Darrin Govens free throws with 8:02 left in the first half gave the Hawks their first lead at 20-18, and that's where it stands at the under-eight media timeout, with 7:36 left in the first half. The lower bowl here filled up nicely, and I'd say we've got a crowd of around 7,000 -- enough to fill the Palestra, where the game was originally supposed to take place.
Update, 7:50: Darrin Govens leads all scorers with 11 points, and with 3:39 left in the first half, the Hawks lead 30-26. Harris Mansell's 3 got the Broncs within two before Govens' floater stretched the lead back to four. Govens reminds me of Rip Hamilton (though he's not nearly as explosive). He's been killing the Broncs on mid-range jumpers.
Update, 8:00: We're tied at 30 at the half. Rider would have taken a lead with 1:34 left when Lamar Johnson banked home a runner, but Johnson was called for an offensive foul and the basket was waved off. Ryan Thompson has eight points to lead Rider, while Harris Mansell and Mike Ringgold have six apiece. Darrin Govens still has 11 to lead Saint Joe's and Ahmad Nivins has eight. Mount Saint Mary's leads Loyola 34-33 at the half in Baltimore. The ESPN scoreboard I'm looking at doesn't have an Iona-Hampton score despite the game having been scheduled to start at 7:30. As I type, Marist and Rutgers should be getting ready to tip at the RAC. Princeton had a 23-22 lead at the half over Central Michigan, and they're under way in the second stanza at Jadwin.
Update, 8:21: Tough start to the second half for Rider, which now trails 38-31 after buckets by Idris Hilliard and Amhad Nivins and a traveling violation on Mike Ringgold. Looks like a good one developing in Baltimore, where Mount Saint Mary's leads Loyola 45-41 with just over 16 minutes left in the game.
Update, 8:28: Saint Joe's is proving to be too big, too strong and too quick for Rider. The Hawks have outscored the Broncs 16-4 in the second half and lead 46-34 -- their biggest lead of the game -- with 14:51 left. The biggest mismatch on the court is Matt Griffin guarding 6-4 Hawks point guard Tasheed Carr, and Carr showed why a minute ago, taking a pass on a give-and-go and muscling in a layup while being hacked by Griffin.
Update, 8:38: Thanks to Ahmad Nivins (game-high 21 points) this game is on the verge of getting out of hand. Nivins is killing the Broncs inside and out (he just hit a 16-foot jumper from beyond the free-throw line), and the Hawks have stretched the lead to 58-42 with 9:53 left. Winning tonight was never extremely likely for Rider, but if you're the Broncs, you've got to come up with a good few minutes here and prevent it from getting really ugly. Morale-wise, there's a big difference between losing on the road by five and losing by 25.
Update, 8:46: A 3-point play by Brandon Penn and a layup by Novar Gadson have brought the Broncs back to within 58-48 with 7:43 left.
Update, 8:54: Four more minutes off the clock, same differential. With 3:33 left, the Hawks lead 63-53 and Rider isn't quite dead yet.
Update, 9:04: When the buzzer sounds, I've got to book it to the media room, which is on the other side of the building, so I might not have the final right away. But Saint Joe's leads 69-57 with 40 seconds left and is going to hand the Broncs a double digit loss.