Three in a row: Rider finding form at right time
The Broncs won their third in a row, all three in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 72-58, Sunday afternoon over St. Peter’s at the Yanitelli Center.
Rider has now won five of its last six, improving to 6-11 overall and 3-2 in the conference.
Brandon Penn continued his impressive play with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Anthony Myles and Jeff Jones combined for 30 points off the bench to spark the Bronc attack in the second half.
“It’s never easy up here,” said coach Tommy Dempsey. “You always have to grind it out against them. When the game got tight, we had great composure.”
The Peacocks (3-13, 2-3), who lost four starters from last season’s MAAC championship team, have struggled offensively this year. They came in averaging 59.4 points per game and had lost eight straight prior to a victory over Canisius in their last game.
Still, they have players – mainly Lamin Fulton (19 points on 7 of 14 shooting) – capable of causing a defense problems.
Fulton connected on two of his five 3-pointers during an 11-2 SPC run that cut a 10-point Rider lead to one with 11:15 to play.
Then the Broncs turned the screws.
Jones knocked home a 3-pointer before driving the baseline to finish with a one-handed flush.
“I’m more versatile than people think,” said Jones, who finished with 13 points and four rebounds. “When my shots not falling I try to get to the rack or find one of my teammates.”
Jon Thompson followed with a floater in the lane, Jones got to the basket again for a layup and Myles got two of his own to cap an 11-2 spurt that pushed the lead back to 10.
Penn finished the job with another 3-pointer, his fourth, and a tip-in off a Jones miss.
Jones and Myles (17 points) combined for 17 of their 30 points in the second half.
“Coach wants us to be a spark off the bench,” Jones said. “We were able to come in and pick the team up.”
Rider closed out that final 11-plus minutes by outscoring SPC 23-10.
“I’m glad we went through a game like this,” Penn said. “It was a close game where we pulled it out. We needed a game like this.”
Penn got going early with seven of Rider’s first nine points as it jumped out to an early advantage. The Broncs led by as many as seven after Jones converted six straight points but SPC pulled within three on Fulton’s 3-pointer with 3:10 to go until halftime.
Rider led 35-29 at half, closing the period on 3-pointers by Penn and Charles Oliver with Markese Tucker sandwiching a three-point play in between for the Peacocks.
This was the first of a four-game road trip that continues Thursday night in Albany, N.Y. against Siena. The Saints (7-8, 2-3) are coming off a 72-60 victory over Niagara and have won two straight in the MAAC.
The travels continue next Monday at Fairfield before concluding with a Friday night tilt against Iona.
It’s a stretch Dempsey believes will define where this team stands within the MAAC race.
“Our next three games are really crucial as to whether we can continue to build and get back into this race or if we’re playing for seeding,” Dempsey said.
Good thing the Broncs have their winning streak.
“When you’re winning and playing good basketball,” Dempsey said, “the confidence starts to develop.”
NOTES: Sophomore guard Tommy Pereira has a high-ankle sprain and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with that being generous, Dempsey said. … Freshman guard Eddie Mitchell picked up an injury to his left hip against Marist and was limited to 12 minutes.