GAMEDAY: Broncs start Western N.Y. swing against last-place Canisius
When: Thursday, Koessler Athletic Center, 7 p.m., 107.7 FM The Bronc.
Last time out: Rider def. Niagara, 74-73; Canisius lost to Marist, 80-69.
Background: Tommy Dempsey doesn’t make a habit of looking at who is chasing his team in the standings.
Instead, he prefers to look up and see who his Broncs might catch.
“I know everyone wants to talk about the play-in game, but I don’t give it any thought,” the Rider coach said. “We’re thinking about climbing the standings. We’re not looking at what the people behind us are doing. I still look at what the people in front of us are doing. Those are the people we’re trying to catch.”
Rider takes its turn at the Western New York swing with last-place Canisius on the schedule Thursday and Niagara, who the Broncs beat on Brandon Penn’s 3-pointer Sunday, to come Saturday.
The Broncs, at 7-6 in the league, are in fifth place, two games ahead of sixth-place Siena and three up on seventh-place Niagara and St. Peter’s.
They are 1 1/2 games behind fourth-place Fairfield (8-4 MAAC) and three back of third-place Manhattan (10-3).
Rider has five league games remaining with the final three coming at Alumni Gymnasium. Only Marist and Fairfield have six conference games left.
Teams that finish 7 through 10 have to play on March 2, the opening night of the MAAC tournament in Springfield, Mass.
“I just feel like if we play good basketball for the next month, we will be well into the mix,” Dempsey said. “My mentality is, ‘Who can we catch?’ not ‘who can catch us?’”
The Broncs knocked off the Griffs, 89-65, on Jan. 22 in the first meeting. They swept the Western New York trip last season, the first time they did so under Dempsey.
Canisius has lost seven in a row and won just one of its last 11.
Rider forward Junior Fortunat (foot) is questionable. He sat out Sunday’s win over Niagara.
In an attempt to jump start an offense that scored a season-low 46 points against Loyola, Dempsey started senior guard Jeff Jones in the win over the Purple Eagles. It was Jones’ first start since Dec. 4. He scored a team-high 18 points, including a pair of crucial 3-pointers during a 22-3 run that swung the game.
Projected starting lineups: Rider: G-Jon Thompson (Jr., 7.1 ppg), G-Jeff Jones (Sr., 13.2 ppg), F-Novar Gadson (Sr., 9.1 ppg), F-Brandon Penn (Sr., 12.3 ppg), F-Danny Stewart (So., 12.1 ppg).
Canisius: G-Harold Washington (Jr., 17 ppg), G-Alshwan Hymes (Jr., 14.9 ppg), G-Gabby Belardo (Jr., 11.8 ppg), G-Franklin Milian (Fr., 1.9 ppg), F-Chris Manhertz (So., 7.2 ppg).