Broncs try to keep winning as road trip continues at Siena
When: Thursday, Times Union Center, 7 p.m., ESPN3.com, 107.7FM The Bronc.
Last time out: Rider def. St. Peter’s, 72-58. Siena def. Niagara, 72-60.
Background: The Broncs have won five of their last six, including three in a row in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play but the schedule gets a lot tougher starting Thursday night against Siena.
The Saints have won two-straight, beating Fairfield and Niagara at home, after suffering a 36-point loss to Iona at Madison Square Garden.
This is the second of a four-game road trip that also features games at Fairfield (next Monday) and Iona (next Friday).
“Our next three games are really crucial as to whether or not we continue to build and get back in this race or if we’ll just be playing for seeding at some point,” said coach Tommy Dempsey.
After beginning the year 1-10 — the program’s worst start in 68 years — the Broncs seem to have finally got it right just in time for the conference haul.
Brandon Penn continues to fly under the radar despite an outstanding season. The senior forward is coming off a 20-point, 10-rebound performance against SPC and has picked up a double-double in four of his last five games.
Penn has also scored in double figures in six straight games and had at least 20 points in four of those.
“It’s starting to get contagious,” said Penn, who is averaging 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, respectively. “I’m just trying to keep doing the same thing everyday.”
Penn’s also been aided by the strong play of Jeff Jones (12.6 ppg) and Anthony Myles (10.2 ppg) off the bench. Those two combined for 30 points in the win over SPC.
Novar Gadson, although he didn’t score against the Peacocks, had 21 and 19 points, respectively, in victories over Manhattan and Marist to start the New Year.
As a team, Rider’s 39 percent shooting on 3-pointers leads the MAAC.
Still, Penn has been the cornerstone of the Broncs’ turn of fortune.
“He’s playing on a good offensive team so they can’t just key on him,” Dempsey said. “Even though he’s in a good place right now, it’s hard to just say, ‘we’re going to take Brandon out of the game,’ because we have so many different guys that can score. He’s taking advantage of that. He’s in a zone right now, where if he gets a good look, it’s almost automatic.”
Siena also has some offensive firepower.
Junior forward OD Anosike scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Saints’ win over Niagara. In doing so, he recorded his 11th consecutive double-double.
Evan Hymes (14.9 ppg) is having a terrific freshman season at point guard and has closed the gap on Niagara’s Juan’ya Green for MAAC Rookie of the Year. Hymes wasn’t expected to start at the point for Mitch Buonaguro, but was pressed into that role when sophomore Rakeem Brookins was ruled out for the season with a back injury.
Siena leads the all-time series 24-11 and is 14-5 at home against Rider. The Broncs did win in Albany last season, 68-60, behind 19 points from Justin Robinson.
“This is a tough stretch,” Penn said. “It’s all away games against very good teams. This is where we’re going to find a lot out about ourselves.”
Projected starting lineups: Rider: G-Eddie Mitchell (Fr., 4.4 ppg), G- Jon Thompson (Jr., 7.5 ppg), F-Novar Gadson (Sr., 8.7 ppg), F-Brandon Penn (Sr., 12.3 ppg), F-Danny Stewart (So., 13.5 ppg).
Siena: G-Evan Hymes (Fr., 14.9 ppg), G-Kyle Downey (Sr., 13.5 ppg), F-Owen Wignot (Sr., 4.7 ppg), F-Brandon Walters (Sr., 5.6 ppg), F-OD Anosike (Jr., 14.1 ppg).