GAMEDAY: Broncs face co-leaders Loyola
When: Friday, 7 p.m., Reitz Arena, ESPNU, 107.7 FM The Bronc.
Last time out: Rider def. Siena, 83-72; Loyola def. Canisius, 70-52.
Background: Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos called Rider the hottest team in the league.
While there are some that might disagree with that, the Broncs are playing much better ever since a poor start put them in catch-up mode.
They are 8-4 in their last 12 games and have won three straight.
“They have a great coach, in Tommy, who has been through the ringer,” said Patsos, who attributed a lot of Rider’s early season struggles to the graduation of Justin Robinson and Mike Ringgold. “He understands what really matters is the MAAC.”
With their victory over Siena last Sunday, the Broncs moved into fifth place in the conference. Loyola, at 9-2 in the league, is tied with Iona and Manhattan for first place.
The Greyhounds have won four in a row.
“Nobody in the league is playing harder,” said Rider coach Tommy Dempsey. “They are in first place because they’ve played with the most intensity. I feel liek they’re the one team that is maintaining a 40-minute, high-energy, high-intensity effort.”
Leading scorer Dylon Cormier (14.4 ppg) is dealing with an ankle injury and didn’t play in the Greyhounds’ win over Canisius. He played 11 minutes in the victory over Niagara.
Even if Cormier can’t go or is limited, Loyola still has offensive firepower in forwards Erik Etherly and Shane Walker. Etherly averages 13 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and Walker comes up with 9.1 and 6.2, respectively.
Rider won last season’s matchup in Baltimore, 82-70.
Dempsey said he’s not worried about conference tournament seeding just yet. Other than avoiding the bottom four — the Broncs are two games clear of seventh place — he’s only concerned with playing good basketball.
The rest will work itself out.
“Once the regular season championship is out of the mix — other than playing the first night — it almost doesn’t matter. What does it matter in a league that is as tight as ours if you’re playing Manhattan or Fairfield? If you’re going to have a chance to win it, you’re going to beat three good teams in three straight days.”
Projected starting lineups: Rider: G-Eddie Mitchell (Fr., 4.8 ppg), G-Jon Thompson (Jr., 6.9 ppg), F-Novar Gadson (Sr., 9.5 ppg), F-Brandon Penn (Sr., 12.6 ppg), F-Danny Stewart (So., 12.3 ppg).
Loyola: G-Robert Olson (Jr., 11.1 ppg), G-R.J. Williams (Fr., 3.9 ppg), F-Erik Etherly (Jr., 13 ppg), F-Anthony Winbush (Jr., 2.9 ppg), F-Shane Walker (Sr., 9.1 ppg).