Rider 74, Manhattan 71
LAWRENCEVILLE – Alumni Gym was rocking – perhaps not like it has in years past, but in a way it hasn’t in some time.
The crowd, energized by Rider’s second-half comeback, came to life late and erupted when Justin Robinson’s 3 gave Rider a dramatic win it badly needed.
Robinson’s 3 put the Broncs ahead with 35 seconds left, and after Rico Pickett’s 3 at the buzzer rimmed out, Rider sealed a 74-71 victory, the Broncs’ second in a row after a three-game losing streak.
“We never give up,” Ryan Thompson said. “We’re all in this together. We’ve been down in situations like this before, but we know we always have the opportunity to come back. We showed it today.”
Thompson played his best game in weeks, scoring a team-high 25 points. But it was Robinson, Rider’s most consistent performer all year, who delivered in the final minute.
His 3 from the top of the key gave Rider a 72-70 lead. And with the game on the line with 9.5 seconds left, the MAAC’s leading free-throw shooter hit two at the line, stretching the margin to 74-71.
Pickett, on his way to a historic night early, scored 28 points in the first half but only four in the second. He forced up a 3 at the buzzer that was on target but rattled out, sending the Broncs to a season sweep of the Jaspers.
Thompson was assertive and Robinson clutch. Yet the most important Rider performance may have come from Mike Ringgold, who shut down Pickett in the second half.
Pickett, an Alabama transfer who came into the game leading the MAAC in scoring, put on a show early. At the break, he had only two fewer points than Rider did as a team.
He managed only four points after the break, only two after the opening minute of the half.
“I need a guy who’s going to take it personally,” Dempsey said. “That’s the bottom line. You need someone who’s going to play with a chip on his shoulder. It has to be really important to you. It’s really important to Mike, and he took it personally that the kid had 28 at the half.”