Rider earns tough win, avoids season sweep against Siena
Having already avoided a season sweep twice, the Broncs made it a third Sunday with an 83-72 victory over Siena at Alumni Gymnasium.
“Every time someone beats us we always talk about that.” Dempsey said. “Sweeps in the league really hurt you. You don’t want anyone to think they have a mental edge on you as you go into a tournament setting.”
Dempsey’s team hasn’t been swept since Siena and Iona did the double over it in the 2009-10 season.
Rider won its third straight, improving to 9-14 overall and 6-5 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and moved into sole possession of fifth place. Siena fell to 10-11 and 5-6 in the league.
Jeff Jones came off the bench to lead five Broncs in double figures with 18 points. The Rider bench outscored Siena’s 41-6.
Anthony Myles (13 points) and Junior Fortunat (10 points) combined for the rest of the bench points. Brandon Penn also added 12 points and Novar Gadson finished with 11.
“The two key guys are Myles and Jones off the bench,” said Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro. “I thought they played better when those two guys came in.”
Jones had his second straight impressive game following a suspension for a violation of team rules that kept him out of the win over Canisius.
His 3-pointer from the right corner with 7:26 remaining gave Rider a 60-57 lead it never relinquished.
The Saints, who trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, outscored the Broncs 23-10 over the opening 7:11 of the second half to grab a five-point lead.
Evan Hymes scored nine of his 17 points during the stretch, capped by a Brandon Walters dunk.
After a 3-pointer by Gadson made it 50-48, Jones put Rider ahead with another 3. That set the game on a seesaw. The lead changed hands eight times over the next three minutes until Jones put the Broncs up 60-57 with the fourth of his five 3-pointers.
“We just tried to stay together as a unit,” said Myles, whose eight points in the final 7:26 played an important role in closing the game. “We focused on the goal. That was winning the game.”
Myles also shook off a hard hit from Siena’s OD Anosike that left him with a bloody nose.
“He leveled me in the air,” Myles said. “It’s all about having a tough mindset. I knew what my team needed and I made the free throws.”
Those free throws — Rider hit 12 of its last 14 from the line — pushed the Broncs ahead 71-64.
Myles had thrown down an alley-oop and Jones hit a 3-pointer just prior to that, giving the Broncs some margin for error.
The physical play personified the game. The teams were nearly even on the boards with Rider grabbing 37 rebounds to Siena’s 36. The Broncs had 10 offensive boards while the Saints had 11.
Anosike finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds, his 17th consecutive double-double, tying Tim Duncan for the second longest streak in Division I in the last 15 years.
“I heard Kevin Garnett say this the other day in an interview, but today was a bar fight,” Jones said. “I think each win is a must-win. I think everybody has bought in to do what they need to do.”
“I’m not sure if the younger guys on our team understand how important every MAAC game is at this point of the year,” Anosike said. “Every game is going to be a war. Just Marist, who is at the bottom of the standings, gave us a battle the other day. Every game is going to be a war and we have to be fully prepared for every single game in order to get a win. Rider was a game where we were up like 30 (at home) and we came down here and they beat us.”
Avoiding yet another sweep in the process.
“This was a hard-fought one tonight,” Dempsey said. “It was pretty much anybody’s through most of the game, but we kept plugging away. We made some big shots, got some big rebounds and got it to the finish line.”
NOTES: Both Dempsey, Buonaguro and their staffs wore sneakers as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer weekend. … Siena opened the game 1 for 12 from the field and 0 for 8 on 3-pointers. It finished 8 of 28 from behind the arc. … The Broncs outscored the Saints 30-28 in the paint. Siena won the battle in the paint in the first matchup, 38-30.