Broncs face tall test in Iona
But a controversial defeat Saturday against Niagara leaves the Broncs with a bad taste in their mouth.
Rider should have been awarded a victory when Jon Thompson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the officials, who ruled the shot good on the floor, overturned that decision upon video review when they failed to recognize the clock started prematurely on the final play.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference acknowledged officiating and timing mistakes at the end of the game in a statement Monday, suspending the three game officials from their next MAAC assignment and publicly reprimanding the game clock and video replay operators at Niagara.
Still, the loss won’t be reversed, and instead of securing a top-six spot in the league, the Broncs face three remaining conference games — all at home but against teams ahead of them in the standings — probably needing to win at least one to remain in the top-six.
Co-leaders Iona visit Alumni Gymnasium Wednesday night.
The Gaels ran out 91-71 winners in the first meeting.
Mike Glover scored 21 points to lead five Iona players in double figures. The Broncs stayed close until the Gaels went on a 14-5 run to bust the contest open.
Rider coach Tommy Dempsey said his team has to limit the number of bad possessions to have a chance.
“You can’t give up transition,” Dempsey said. “It’s your bad shots and your turnovers that fuel their fire. As long as we take good shots, even if they come early, as long as they’re good shoots that will be our focus.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean slowing the pace of the game down.
“We’re not going to play painfully slow because we’re not good at that and that’s not who we are,” Dempsey said. “We play well when the game is up and down, but they’re better at that game than we are. I think there is a fine line. I don’t think we can go out there and stall and just try and hold the ball.”
The Gaels lead the league in points per game with 83.2 and the Broncs are second at 72.5. They are also first (Iona 49.7) and second (Rider 45) in field goal percentage and 3-point shots made per game (Iona 7.7; Rider 7.6), respectively.
Glover leads the MAAC in scoring with 18.9 points per game and senior guard Scott Machado is tops in assists with 10 per game, over five more than the next closest player (Jon Thompson 4.9).
Rider will have freshman guard Eddie Mitchell and freshman forward Junior Fortunat available. Both missed the weekend trip because of illness.
After facing Iona, the Broncs travel to Albany Saturday for BracketBusters before closing the regular season against Loyola and Fairfield.
The Gaels and Greyhounds are tied for first and the Stags are in fourth, 1 1/2 games back.
While Rider can’t win the regular season championship, it will have a say in who does.
“Our goal isn’t to be a spoiler for anybody,” Dempsey said. “That’s not what we’re about. We want to finish the season strong and win as many games as we can.”
But beating the top of the league would certainly feel good with the conference tournament coming up the first weekend in March.
“It would be a nice confidence boost,” Dempsey said. “I’d be lying if I said that wouldn’t help our mentality.”