What a game
There are many implications, foremost among them that Siena will almost certainly need to win the MAAC tournament to gain a second straight NCAA tournament berth. Not that the Saints' chances of doing so aren't pretty good. But there will be no unbeaten run in the MAAC, no spot in the top 25, and less attention from the national media, which was represented today by Sports Illustrated's Mark Beech.
There are more quotes to come, and I'll have stories tomorrow both in The Trentonian and in our sister paper, the Troy Record in greater Albany. For now, though, here are Tommy Dempsey's remarks from the postgame press conference:
Opening statement: I just thought it was a great college basketball team: two really talented teams, and both playing very well so I don’t think it was a case of, yeah people will look at it as an upset but I don’t think it was a case that they didn’t play well. That’s what I think I was most proud of. I thought they came in and played extremely well. Kenny was unbelievable. Franklin played well, Moore played well. In spite of that we were able to win the game, so just a good sign that we can compete with then. Everybody in our locker room has thought all along that we can compete with this team, and we did that today.
On how big the win is for the program: I don’t know. it was a big win but you have to put it in perspective. If we were both 12-0 it would probably feel better. They’re still going to play the regular season championship barring a miracle, but I think maybe since the Marist game in the tournament. That was a great program win and this is probably the biggest win since then. …. It’s a great win because they were undefeated and they were ranked no. 20 in the RPI, but the one thing you need to understand about these guys is they’ve never been intimidated by siena, so it’s probably a bigger win for you guys than it really is within our locker room. I think we expected to be able to play with them toe for toe and we went pretty much toe for toe in Albany and we went pretty much toe for toe with them today, so I don’t think there was a feeling in our locker room that this was a monumental upset. it was a good battle between two good teams, and we won this side. … This was a very good performance.
On Justin Robinson, who hit five 3-pointers for a career-high 25 points: I’ve tried to tell people that he’s a very very good jump shooter and I think he’s getting more comfortable playing off the ball. He was stepping into them tonight. We were sharing the ball and we had 21 assists, which I’m assuming is a season high. I don’t remember seeing a number that big. He stepped into some shots, and the five he made, I don’t think any of them hit the rim. He really was in a nice groove today.
On what enabled Rider to overcome a 13-point second-half deficit: We played the same way all day. We just didn’t have a good flow early in the second half. We thought we’d be able to spread the court, take advantage of some matchups and share the ball. … That’s how we win. That was our approach going into the game and that’s pretty much what we stayed with throughout the game and we just really got into a rhythm there. Guys started looking for each other and getting good shots, and I thought Justin and Novar during that stretch…. Novar was very tough for them to match up with. He was able to get into the lane pretty much at will and when they collapsed, I thought we did a good job of finding their shooters, and Justin was on the back end of some drive and kicks.
On the technical foul he got in the second half: I thought that my team bailed me out. I just wasn’t happy. I expressed that and he gave me a T. At that point I got the guys together. I knew it maybe wasn’t the best time for a T. I think we were down seven and we gave them four free throws with 7 and a half to go. Sometimes you have to stick up for your kids too. If you don’t like the way things were going for them. I was just sticking up for our guys, because I knew they were playing really hard. Things weren’t going our way up there.
On Rider’s defense: The different in the games was that up there, we didn’t get many stops down the stretch. I thought we were really tired up there. They kept running and we kept running and they were just better than us. At home you have a little more energy. I thought our bench had good energy. I though our bench had more energy than they did up there. It was too great offensive teams that were figuring out how to stop each other. We were down 13 and we got some big stops in a row.
On what Rider did defensively down the stretch: We were just trying to go zone, man and just keep them off balance since they’re so good offensively. There was this one defining moment in the game. I ask the guys at times since they’re the ones playing, what do we got here? Man or zone, coming out of the TO? Ringgold said ‘that’s it, man, man up.’ And we did the rest of the way.