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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

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Broncs complete road trip at Iona

LAWRENCEVILLE — The birthday gift Rider men’s basketball forward Danny Stewart wants most is an upset win over Iona.

Stewart turns 20 Friday, the same night the Broncs travel to New Rochelle, N.Y., to face the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference favorite Gaels in a nationally televised game.

Coming in, all the talk is about Iona.

“From the beginning of the year, everybody has been counted out and all the talk is about Iona,” Stewart said. “It’s kind of a challenge for us. We have to come out and handle our business.”

The Gaels have earned that praise.

They are 14-4 (6-1 in the MAAC), have the two best players in the conference, rank third in the nation in scoring, first in assists and lead the league in just about every offensive category.

Barring a collapse in MAAC play, they will at least have a legitimate claim to an NCAA at-large berth should they falter in the conference tournament.

Led by preseason Player of the Year Mike Glover (conference-best 19 ppg) and point guard Scott Machado (13.1 ppg, 10.3 assists) — who was named Wednesday to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 given to the nation’s most outstanding player — Iona is a tough task for anyone, let alone MAAC squads.

“I don’t know that you can slow them down,” said Rider coach Tommy Dempsey. “You really have to work hard in your transition defense so that if they are taking quick shots they’re not layups or dunks.

“You have to get guys back into the paint and then build out. If their quick shots are long shots, I think you can live with that.”

The Gaels average 84.4 points per game, connecting on 50.1 percent of their shot with a league-best 7.8 3-pointers per game. If you try to take away Glover in the post, one of their long-range bombers steps up to beat you.

Second leading scorer Lamont “MoMo” Jones (15.1 ppg) reached the Elite Eight with Arizona last season before transferring, Sean Armand hit a school-record 10 3-pointers in a rout of Siena and Kyle Smyth has made plenty of big shots throughout his career.

So don’t expect anything out of the ordinary from the Broncs.

“I think you have to play everybody straight up,” said Dempsey, although he did admit that if this was a one-and-done situation he might “throw a lot of junk at them and gimmick it up.”

Rider, which completes a four-game road trip and a stretch of eight out of nine away form Alumni Gymnasium Friday, may at least have a chance to put up some big scoring numbers. The Broncs average 71.1 points per game, good for third in the MAAC, and lead the conference in 3-point percentage (38.2) and 3-pointers made (146). Their 7.7 3-pointers per game are second to Iona’s 7.8.

“If I were a betting a man,” Dempsey said, “I would more than likely say it is going to be a high-scoring game. But the higher scoring it gets, the more it favors them.”

Rider is also only one of two MAAC teams to win at the Hynes Athletic Center since the beginning of last season.

Manhattan the other, coming from 17 down to hand Iona its only league loss of this season on Jan. 12.

And that game the Broncs won a year ago, 61-59.

“Every team is capable of being beat,” Stewart said. “We have to go out there and play hard, play how we know how to play.”

Fortunat coming around

Freshman forward Junior Fortunat scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in the loss to Fairfield as Dempsey continues to bring him along slowly.

“We need him to progress because I think he can be a difference maker by the time we get to the (MAAC) tournament,” Dempsey said.

Fortunat sat out the first nine games of the season while the NCAA ruled on his eligibility. Fortunat is an international player (Quebec) and had to have his transcript cleared by the NCAA.

“Our thing was, he was behind, because he had to sit out,” Dempsey said. “I didn’t want to throw too much at him too quick. I wanted to bring him along at the right pace with an eye on him getting more and more time.”

Fortunat put in an active 14 minutes against the Stags and Dempsey thinks he could be a key cog down the stretch.

“He’s a big strong kid and he does give us some size we’re lacking at time,” the coach said of the 6-fott-9, 220-pound forward. “If we’re going to be a more complete team by the end of the year, he’s going to have to be a part of it.”

Gadson seeing fewer minutes

Novar Gadson had his two best games of the season in wins over Marist (19 points) and Manhattan (21 points) but he’s been unable to duplicate that form since.

He’s only scored 13 points in the three games since, playing 15 minutes in the loss to Fairfield.

“I regret not playing him more,” Dempsey said. “It’s not all really about him. I have eight guys that I really like to play and I try to get settled on five of them. Some nights different guys are on the outside of that five as I get settled late in the game. I try to figure out who is going to give us the best chance to win that night and ride that out. He just happened to not be in that mix the other night, but that doesn’t mean it won’t change on Friday.”

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