Blogs > The Full-Court Press

Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Friday, December 30, 2011

Poor first half dooms Broncs at Stony Brook

If only the Rider men’s basketball team could have the first half back.

The Broncs dug themselves a 20-point hole they couldn’t get out of and fell to Stony Brook, 79-62 Friday night in their final game of 2011.

Jeff Jones led Rider (3-11) with 17 points. Jones banged home his fifth 3-pointer with 6:03 remaining to cut the Seawolves’ lead to 61-53 but the Broncs would get no closer.

As Rider ran out of gas in those final six minutes, Stony Brook (5-6) pulled away.

Dave Coley scored 16 points and Dallis Joyner added 15 for the Seawolves.

The Broncs were their own worst enemy in the first half. They turned it over 10 times and shot 7 for 20 in the opening 20 minutes.

The Seawolves attempted 13 more shots (33-20) in the first half and scored 20 points in the paint.
Rider did come out strong in the second half, outscoring SBU 17-9 to open the final stanza.

After the Broncs got it to eight on Jones’ 3-pointer, the team’s traded baskets for the next three minutes before the Seawolves finished the game on a 10-3 run.

Brandon Penn had 10 points and 11 boards for his second consecutive double-double.

Rider returns to action Jan. 2, traveling to Manhattan where it will try to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Jaspers.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Brandon Penn stepping up at right time

LAWRENCEVILLE – Brandon Penn swears he never looked at the scoreboard during last week’s win over Monmouth to see how close he was to reaching a career high in points.

“I always look at the scoreboard but only to see how close the game is,” Penn quipped through a smile after the Rider men’s basketball team finished practice Wednesday afternoon.

Penn matched a career high in points with 26 and set a career best in field goals made (eight) and rebounds (15) in the Broncs’ 74-62 win over their in-state rival.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rewarded him with Player of the Week honors.

“I didn’t know I was (Player of the Week) until one of my brothers told me,” Penn said. “I thought I could have got it a few times before but it’s nice to be recognized and finally get something like that.”

Coach Tommy Dempsey told Penn before the season started that he thought this could be the senior’s breakout year.

Penn has always been second fiddle to Justin Robinson, Mike Ringgold and Novar Gadson. But with Robinson and Ringgold graduating and Gadson struggling with injuries the Broncs need somebody to step up.

Penn provided that lift against Monmouth.

“He’s playing with confidence,” Dempsey said. “He’s one of those guys we’ve really grown to rely on.”

Now it’s up to him to continue to play with that confidence. Penn might not get 26 and 15 every night – he’s averaging 11 points and four rebounds per game –  but Dempsey thinks he can be a difference maker the second half of the season.

“I know that he can make shots,” Dempsey said. “If he continues to rebound the ball like he did the other night and continues to be a leader that is probably more important to me. He’s always been a high percentage shooter and it’s more the rebounds and the leadership I’ve grown to appreciate through these last few weeks.”

Rider (3-10) has won two in a row and begun to show signs of life after starting the season 1-10. Its defense, which was allowing 82 points per game, has given up less than 80 in the last three games.

The Broncs, who had three days off for Christmas, travel to 4-6 Stony Brook Friday night before starting the New Year Jan. 2 at Manhattan.

Penn said they’re feeling like a team refreshed.

“We feel good,” he said. “We’ve had some good practices and we feel like we’re getting off to a new start.”

And his New Year’s resolution.

“Hopefully,” he said, “that is getting more wins.”

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Monday, December 26, 2011

MAAC Monday

-- Every Monday I'll take a look around the MAAC from the week that was and look ahead to what's on tap. Without further ado, on to the inaugural addition of MAAC Monday:

Canisius (2-9, 0-2): Last week -- def. South Dakota, 90-80 in overtime; lost to Loyola-Illinois, 59-45. This week -- Dec. 28 vs. Binghamton (0-10), Jan. 1 at Fairfield (7-5). OUTLOOK: Rumblings that Tom Perrotta could be on the hot seat in Buffalo started after his team's exit in the MAAC quarterfinals a year ago and the Griffs' rough start this season can't be helping matters. Facing winless Binghamton in their final non-conference game could at least give them a lift heading into the league grind.

AP Photo: Rakim Sanders Fairfield

Fairfield (7-5, 2-0): Last week -- lost to No. 9 Connecticut, 79-71. This week -- Dec. 28 at Drexel (6-4), Jan. 1 vs. Canisius (2-9). OUTLOOK: There was hope the MAAC could grab two NCAA bids this year with both the Stags and Iona putting out talented teams. After the first 12 games, it looks like the only way the league gets two bids is if someone other than Iona wins the conference tournament. The Stags had chances for quality wins but are 0-5 in those games with the only solid victory coming against 6-6 Old Dominion. That said, Sydney Johnson will like the way his kids battled back against UConn after falling behind by double digits in the first half. A win over a good Drexel team that was picked to win the CAA would be nice boost heading into league play.

Iona (10-2, 2-0): Last week -- def. Vermont, 73-72; def. William & Mary, 83-65. This week -- Dec. 29 at Hofstra (5-7), Jan. 3 vs. Siena. OUTLOOK: The Gaels have lived up to the hype that came with their talented roster. They can finish an eight-game road trip 7-1 by beating Hofstra Thursday. Mike Glover's been a beast, averaging 18.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and Scott Machado has been every bit of a top-five point guard, averaging 10.4 assists per game. Barring a 2012 collapse in MAAC play, Iona has set itself up nicely for an at-large bid should it falter in the conference tournament.

Loyola (8-3, 2-0): Last week -- lost to No. 3 Kentucky, 87-63. This week -- Dec. 28 at Bucknell (8-5), Jan. 2 vs. Niagara (4-8). OUTLOOK: Jimmy Pastos won't be disappointed with his team's effort at Rupp Arena. The Greyhounds trailed by six at the half before the Wildcats pulled away in the second half. Erik Etherly (12.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) is having an All-MAAC type of season.

Manhattan (8-5, 2-0): Last week -- def. Towson, 81-62; lost to George Mason, 81-61. This week -- Dec. 30 at Binghamton (0-10), Jan. 2 vs. Rider (3-10). OUTLOOK: Steve Masiello's team won five in a row before falling at George Mason and after a 2-0 start to conference play the Jaspers should feel confident. George Beamon is averaging 16.4 points per game for a team that has overachieved this year after winning six games a year ago.

Marist (5-7, 1-1): Last week -- def. Hartford, 89-86 in double overtime; lost to Penn, 84-71. This week -- Dec. 28 vs. Columbia (7-4), Jan. 2 vs. St. Peter's (2-10). OUTLOOK: The five wins for Chuck Martin's squad is a success after six wins all of last season. The Red Foxes will surely surpass that total but it's still hard to see them finishing in the top six.

Niagara (4-8, 0-2): Last week -- lost to Quinnipiac, 85-81. This week -- Dec. 2 vs. UMBC (1-10), Dec. 30 vs. St. Bonaventure (6-5), Jan. 2 at Loyola (8-3). OUTLOOK: The Purple Eagles have lost five of their last six after a 3-3 start but it's not the fault of freshman Juan'ya Green. The guard's averaging 19.1 points per game to lead the league.

St. Peter's (2-10, 1-1): Last week -- lost to Kent St., 67-58; lost to Utah St.; 72-47, lost to Texas-Arlington, 73-68. This week -- Dec. 28 vs. Lehigh (9-4), Jan. 2 at Marist (5-7). OUTLOOK: John Dunne knew this was going to be a difficult season. He lost four starters from last season's MAAC tournament championship team and his team's youth has been exploited. They've lost six straight, failing to score 50 points in three of those games.

Siena (4-7, 0-2): Last week -- def. Princeton, 63-59. This week -- Dec. 28 at Florida Atlantic (4-8), Jan. 3 vs. Iona (10-2). OUTLOOK: How to figure the Saints? They lost seven of eight after starting 2-0, then picked up a nice win over Princeton at home. Freshman guard Evan Hymes has been outstanding this season, scoring a career-high 22 points against Princeton. Siena might just be dangerous in the MAAC this season.

Rider (3-10, 0-2): Last week -- def. UMBC, 73-66 in overtime; def. Monmouth 74-62. This week: Dec. 30 at Stony Brook (3-6), Jan. 2 at Manhattan (8-5): OUTLOOK: No question the Broncs have been the biggest disappointment in the league, but they showed signs of life last week. The defense is starting to pick up, holding three straight opponents under 80 points.


- Brandon Penn (Rider) matched a career-high 26 points in the team's win over Monmouth. He also set career bests in field goals made (eight) and rebound (15). The Broncs have won two in a row for the first time all season.
- Evan Hymes (Siena) scored a career-high 22 points to help the Saints get a much-needed win over a decent Princeton team. Hymes leads the Saints with 15 point per game.


- St. Peter's has lost six straight and while the defending tournament champs were going to struggled after losing four starters, the Peacocks look like they could finish rock bottom in the MAAC.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Brandon Penn matches career-high 26 points to lead Rider over Monmouth

WEST LONG BRANCH — Even in the midst of the tough start to this season, the Rider men’s basketball team has been able to count on Brandon Penn.

The senior matched a career-high 26 points Thursday night as the Broncs won their second straight and fifth consecutive over in-state rival Monmouth with a 74-62 victory at the Multipurpose Activities Center.

“It’s great to see Brandon be rewarded with the way he’s been playing,” said coach Tommy Dempsey. “He’s been a really underrated player in our program, and he’s kind of been in the shadows of some other really good players. I think he’s really stepped up through this struggle.”

Everybody saw Penn Thursday night. His 26 points — he hit the 26-point mark Dec. 2 of last year at Manhattan — came on a career-best eight made field goals (8 for 16), six of which came from behind the arc.

He also set a career high in rebounds with 15.

“There wasn’t really a different feeling about the game,” Penn said. “I just came in like it was any other game. I just made more shots.”

The Broncs (3-10) didn’t wilt when Monmouth scored five straight points to cut the deficit to 64-60 with 3:43 left, instead, coming right back within seconds to increase the lead back to six after Eddie Mitchell and Danny Stewart connected on an alley-oop.

“We’ve been having trouble closing games out,” Penn said. “Since we were up, we didn’t want to be complacent and slow it down, so we just kept pushing it.”

The defense took care of the rest.

After getting within 64-60, the Hawks (2-10) made only one field goal the rest of the way. 

“I feel good about us right now,” Penn said. “We’re starting to get a good rhythm and hopefully we can keep it going after the break.”

Rider even came back on the boards, out-rebounding Monmouth for the game, 38-34, making it the first time all year that it has grabbed more boards than the opponent.

In the first half, it was the Hawks’ offensive rebounding that allowed them to stay in the game. They grabbed 11 boards on the offensive glass that led to 10 second-chance points.

The Broncs led 31-25 at intermission despite going 7:01 without scoring in the first half.

Penn hit a trio of 3-pointers with his first one giving Rider a 7-2 lead and forcing Monmouth into an early timeout. But the Hawks responded with eight straight points over the next 7:01 to take a 10-7 lead until Danny Stewart finally broke the scoring drought with a layup.

Stewart was the only other Rider player in double figures with 17 points.

Ed Waite had 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead Monmouth.

Hawks coach King Rice wasn’t happy with his team’s performance.

“Our players weren’t here tonight,” Rice said. “They had already gone on break. That’s what happens — finals come, kids want to go home, they leave before they’re supposed to and you get beat.”

Penn didn’t take an early vacation.

“He was here. He wanted to play before he went home,” Rice said. “They’re 3-10, we’re 2-10 and when your record looks like this, you either say, ‘I’m going to be a man and fight,’ or, ‘I’m going to run like a little boy.’ And tonight, he was a man and he fought, and we ran like little boys.”

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rider (2-10) at Monmouth (2-9) Gameday

Who: Rider (2-10) at Monmouth (2-9)

When: Thursday, Multipurpose Activities Center, 7 p.m. 107.7 FM The Bronc.

Last time out: Rider def. Maryland-Baltimore County, 73-66 in overtime. Monmouth lost to Rutgers, 81-66.

Background: The Broncs have played better in their last two games — an overtime loss to princeton and an overtime victory over UMBC — but are in the midst of playing eight of their next nine away from home.

They went 11-6 on the road last year but are 1-4 this season.

The biggest improvement in the last two games has come on the defensive end of the floor. Tommy Dempsey has made a tactical adjustment to use a half-court trap that falls back into a matchup zone.

Rider was allowing 82.3 points per game prior to its previous two contests and allowed less than 80 in both of those games.

Dempsey said utilizing the trap has given his team an energy boost.

“We try to put in a game plan that helps us get stops,” Dempsey said. “We needed something to grab onto defensively, something to rally around. We’ve used this little three-quarter, half-court trap to get the guys excited about defense and keep our opponents off balance.”

Monmouth will play just its second home game of the season Thursday. The Hawks are 2-9 but beat Fordham by 15 in that one home date.

They’ve also played a difficult schedule including games against Villanova, Virginia Tech, George Mason, Vanderbilt and Rutgers.

“I’m really worried about the game,” Dempsey said. “They’ve been away so much that I think they’re going to be really ready for a home game. It’s going to be a tough game.”

At beginning of the season, you would have pegged Rider to win this game but considering the fortunes for the Broncs that’s far from a given.

“Going into the season, it’s a game we really need to win,” Dempsey said. “But if you look at it now, it’s no gimme. We have a two-point win and an overtime win. That’s it. To sit here and make any sense of we’re better this team and they’re better than that team, we’re not there right now. We have to focus on us.”

Monmouth is in a transition year. The Hawks are under first-year coach King Rice and have a depleted roster after several players were dismissed from the team last season.

Junior guard Jesse Steele is the Monmouth player to watch. He leads the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game.

Projected starting lineups: Rider: G-Eddie Mitchell (Fr., 3.1 ppg), G-Jon Thompson (Jr., 7.9 ppg), F-Danny Stewart (So., 13.3 ppg), F-Brandon Penn (Sr., 9.8 ppg), C-Dera Nd-Ezuma (Jr., 2.8 ppg).
Monmouth: G-Dion Nesmith (Jr., 8.3 ppg), G-Andrew Nicholas (Jr., 7.5 ppg), G- Jesse Steele (Jr., 11.1 ppg), F- Mike Myers Keitt (Sr., 7.5 ppg), F-Ed Waite (Jr., 8.4 ppg).

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jon Thompson's move to two-guard provides lift

LAWRENCEVILLE – Jon Thompson had all summer to think about how his role would change for the Rider men’s basketball team.

Thompson, a junior from Orlando, would be asked to take over at point guard and fill the void vacated by the graduated Justin Robinson.

But just like his team, Thompson had a rocky start to the season. He was suspended for the first two games because of an NCAA violation that also cost him the MAAC Tournament last year.

Once he did get on the court, the Broncs were already 0-2, and by the time Thompson or any of his teammates knew what hit them, Rider was off to its worst start in 68 years.
Thompson had a tough time adjusting to all the responsibilities put on the point guard’s shoulders.

“It was almost like he had too much responsibility,” said coach Tommy Dempsey. “You’re not a natural point guard and you’re trying to get everybody organized. You’re trying to get the right guys shots. You’re trying to figure out how to get those guys shots while picking your own spots.”

So Dempsey made a decision to start freshman Eddie Mitchell at the point and move Thompson off the ball to the two-guard.

Thus far, it has worked well.

Thompson has scored in double figures in his last four games, including a career-high 17 in an overtime loss to Princeton.

“I’m way more comfortable off the ball than on,” Thompson said. “Playing with the ball is something that I’m learning as I go this year.”

Thompson said he’s simply taking what the defense gives him.

Dempsey thinks he’s in a more natural position.

“He missed the first two games and then was thrown into a position where Novar (Gadson) was injured and couldn’t do the things he was supposed to do as a senior,” Dempsey said. “Jon’s trying to figure out, “where do I best fit in?’”

The change has also allowed Thompson to be more of a force defensively. Dempsey has started to utilize a half-court trap that falls back into a matchup zone to help his defensively-challenged team.

Rider has allowed less than 80 points in each of its last two games, both of which went to overtime.

“It slows them up,” Thompson said about changing the defensive look. “It gives them a short shot clock and that helps us defensively.”

The Broncs picked up their second win by beating UMBC in overtime last Saturday and can try to win two in a row for the first time this season Thursday night when they face Monmouth (2-9).

If Rider is going to put a win streak together it is going to have to come away from Alumni Gymnasium. The Broncs are in the midst of playing eight of the next nine games on the road.

They went 11-6 in road games last year but are 1-4 this season.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tommy Dempsey happy to reach century mark

AP Photo   

--Caught up with Tommy Dempsey at practice Tuesday to chat about reaching the 100-win mark and if he ever thought he'd get there considering the way the team has struggled this year.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Tommy Dempsey will go down in Rider men’s basketball history as the fastest coach to 100 victories.
It still took a little longer than expected.
Dempsey entered this season, his sixth as head coach in Lawrenceville, needing two wins to reach the century mark.
Off to a 1-10 start and on the heels of a six-game losing streak, Dempsey admitted he felt like it might not ever come. But the Broncs held off Maryland-Baltimore County, 73-66, Saturday night in overtime for the milestone victory.
“Any time you reach a milestone, it’s a good feeling,” Dempsey said Tuesday after practice as he prepares to embark on another 100 when his team faces Monmouth Thursday night. “It was just soured by how long it took. But at the same time, it’s a reminder that we won before, and hey, we’ll win again.”
Dempsey needed 176 games to reach 100 wins, passing Kevin Bannon as the quickest to reach the century mark. Bannon, who spent eight years in charge at Rider and is the last coach to guide the Broncs to the NCAA Tournament, did it in 179 games.
“We’ve been talking about it for a while,” said senior forward Brandon Penn. “It just took a long time to get it. I’m glad we finally got it.”
Dempsey said it slipped his mind how close he was to 100 because of the way the team has struggled.
“I didn’t think too much about it because you only need two wins and you don’t think you’re going to have to wait until December,” he said. “I didn’t really give it a lot of thought and kind of forgot about it because it took so long.”
If anything, for Dempsey, the milestone serves as a reminder of the success the program has had over the last five years.
During those first five seasons, the Broncs’ 98 wins were more than any other school in the New York Metropolitan area. Hofstra (95), Long Island (82), St. John’s (81) and Seton Hall (79) all come in behind them. Only Siena (110) had more wins in the MAAC over that period.
“We’re in a little bit of a tough stretch,” Dempsey said. “It does serve as a little bit of a reminder that we’re going to get this right.”
Rider is the midst of playing eight of its next nine games away from Alumni Gymnasium.
While the games are on the road, the schedule does lighten up. Monmouth and Stony Brook — the next two opponents — are a combined 5-15.
“Right now, it’s not about a win-loss number,” Dempsey said. “It’s about performance-by-performance and what can we take out of each game and build on.
“I know that winning is important, but our overall record isn’t going to change overnight. It has to be about, ‘Are we getting better?’ And I feel like we are getting better over the last few weeks. Now you hope that it will translate into wins as you get better.”
Gadson hurting
Dempsey said senior forward Novar Gadson is being hampered by sore knees. Gadson had microfracture surgery in the offseason and said he felt “100 percent” prior to the season opener
Dempsey played him regular minutes but quickly realized he was having a hard time getting up and down the court.
“It’s a wear and tear thing,” Dempsey said. “He’s just having a hard time with his range of motion.”
Gadson didn’t play against Princeton but did see 14 minutes off the bench in the win over UMBC.
Myles picks up knock
Anthony Myles injured his left wrist and sat out practice Tuesday. Dempsey said it’s a minor injury and Myles, who is left handed, will practice Wednesday and play Thursday against Monmouth.
Medley to redshirt
Dempsey said freshman guard Mark Medley will seek a medical redshirt. Medley broke his left wrist in the offseason and re-aggravated the injury during practice.
Medley, from Wilmington, Del., played seven minutes in the season-opener at Robert Morris but hasn’t appeared since and isn’t dressing for games.
He is practicing with the team.

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