Rider trying to build on recent run of form
Four games into this crucial stretch, the Broncs have gone 3-1 and are coming off their best performance of the season, beating Manhattan 88-77 for their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference win.
“All you can do is keep pressing forward,” Dempsey said during Tuesday’s league conference call. “Just because we played well (Monday) night doesn’t mean we’re a great team by any stretch, but I do think we’re improving.”
Rider, already behind the eight-ball following a pair of conference losses in December, avoided a season sweep against the Jaspers, who had won 71-55 in Lawrenceville on Dec. 2.
Dempsey was asked if he felt his team’s improvement was the result of players metaphorically having their backs against the wall.
“I don't think it's as simple as that,” was his answer.
Instead, he credited the character of his players for not pointing fingers when the team was off to its worst start in 68 years.
“When you go through a stretch like we have things can get really ugly if you don’t have the right people in your locker room,” Dempsey said. “One of things that has helped us before is that we’ve won before. Guys realize we’ve won before and we can win again. It’s just a matter of doing a couple of things better and more consistently.”
The Broncs were rewarded against Manhattan.
“We’ve hung together,” said Dempsey, whose team shot 58 percent from the floor and 54 percent from behind the arc in the win over the Jaspers. “(Monday) night was our best performance to date and it had been coming. I think we were due one of those. We went up there and had a very good performance.”
Rider gets its lone home game in this nine-game run Friday night against Marist. The Red Foxes are coming off a win over Saint Peter’s and are 7-7 overall and 2-1 in the MAAC.
They already hold a 95-75 victory over the Broncs.
“Winning makes you feel good,” said Marist coach Chuck Martin, whose team has already surpassed its six wins from a season ago. “Our kids are feeling really good about where we’re at. We’re taking baby steps but we’re starting to get there slowly-but-surely.”
Martin said he expects a different Rider team than the one that got blown out in Poughkeepsie in early December.
“They’re playing much better basketball,” Martin said. “You can tell on tape that they are a much more confident group. It was just a matter of time. Tommy’s a good coach, he’s been in this league for a long time and you knew at some point he would get his guys going.”