Broncs drop second straight, falling at Fairfield
He knew his team would be tested. He knew it would find out just where it stood in the context of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Would it be a challenger for the regular season title or playing for seeding?
The answer, if not already known after the team's 1-10 start, came Monday night. The Broncs will be playing for seeding after dropping their second straight, 61-52, to Fairfield at Webster Bank Arena.
Rider slipped into a fifth-place tie in the MAAC while Fairfield moved into sole possession of fourth place.
“We’re not in a position right now where we are winning the MAAC regular season championship,” Dempsey said. “We’re not good enough to do that right now.
“We are talented enough to become a good team by the end of the year and compete come tournament time.”
Rider, who had beat Fairfield three straight times on this floor, will rue its missed opportunities.
Neither team came out and set the gym on fire but it was the Broncs (6-13, 3-4) who looked heavy-legged, playing their third straight road game.
Rider came into the game leading the MAAC in 3-point percentage (38.8) and second in points per game (72.2) but shot just 32 percent, hitting on only 3 of its 13 3-point attempts.
It also turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 12 Fairfield points.
When the game did get tight, Rider couldn’t make the plays to get over the hump. Trailing 53-47 after Jon Thompson converted a three-point play with 5:49 remaining, the Broncs couldn’t get any closer. Jeff Jones missed a pair of free throws and Thompson got into the lane but couldn’t finish at the rim.
The Stags, who had lost three in a row, finally got the play that finished Rider off when Derek Needham’s fall-away 3-pointer connected as the shot clock expired. That put Fairfield (9-9, 4-3) up 56-47 with 2:14 remaining.
“I think guys didn’t have their legs under them,” said senior forward Brandon Penn, who finished with 11 points. “We played hard the whole night, but in the end, we just came up short.”
Fairfield scored the first eight points of the game forcing Dempsey into an early timeout.
Rider slowly worked its way back into the contest closing the gap to 20-19 before the Stags went on an 11-2 run punctuated by a Desmond Wade to Rakim Sanders alley-oop with 4:10 remaining.
The Broncs closed the opening stanza on a 7-4 run to cut the deficit to 35-28 at the half.
The Stags again extended the lead — opening the second half the same way they did the first — with a 12-4 run to go up 13 with 12:08 to play.
Sanders (13 points) and Derek Needham (game-high 15 points) were the spark, first a Needham layup followed by a Sanders one-handed jam and then fastbreak layup, that forced Dempsey into a timeout.
Rider responded with a 4-point play by Jones and then two Penn free throws to get within seven but
the Stags kept the Broncs at arms length the rest of the way.
“It was a struggle,” Dempsey said. “They did more than we did. We’re in a tough stretch right now and I thought we looked really tired.”