Penn's 3 caps furious comeback to beat Niagara
“None,” he said.
But how many in the final second?
That one — with 0.8 seconds remaining — was the game-winner in a wild contest in which Rider erased a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Niagara, 74-73, at Alumni Gymnasium.
Antoine Mason gave the Purple Eagles a two-point lead when he drove to the basket and banked in a mid-range jumper with 6.6 seconds left.
Rider coach Tommy Dempsey elected not to call timeout and Jon Thompson raced up the floor and found an open Penn a few steps behind the 3-point line.
“I was measuring it the whole time,” said Penn, who admitted he never looked at the clock but knew he had time to get the shot off. “I was yelling at Jon the whole time and thankfully he gave it to me.”
And did he know it was good?
“It felt good,” he said.
Rider remained in fifth place, improving to 10-15 overall and 7-6 in the league, and moved three games ahead of Niagara (9-16, 4-9), which is tied with St. Peter’s for seventh place.
Jeff Jones, inserted into the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 4, led four Broncs in double figures with 18 points. Anthony Myles had 13 off the bench while Thompson and Penn had 11 each.
Marvin Jordan finished with 24 points, matching a building-record with eight 3-pointers, for the Purple Eagles.
On an afternoon when the MAAC’s third leading scorer — freshman Juan’ya Green — was held to six points, Jordan sparked a 10-2 run over the final five minutes of the first half that gave Niagara a 41-32 lead at intermission. He hit two of his five first-half 3s in that stretch.
The Purple Eagles then built on that advantage in the second half. Antoine Mason (15 points) came up with a steal and layup to put Niagara up 59-42 with 11:43 to go.
Dempsey called timeout.
“I just told them to keep fighting,” Dempsey said.
Rider had the lead five minutes and nine seconds later.
Jones started and ended a 22-3 run with 3-pointers. His second 3 — with 6:34 left — put the Broncs up 64-62. In between, Myles had eight points, Thompson hit two 3s of his own and Penn made a layup.
The sophomore guard came back with three consecutive 3-pointers to put the Purple Eagles up 71-64 with 3:11 remaining.
“He was tremendous,” said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich. “My heart’s broken for these guys. It’s tough to walk in that locker room. They played their hearts out. We have the fourth youngest team in America and our guys just need to have a great win here or there. This would have been a great win for these young guys.”
Still, Rider was resilient.
Thompson hit another 3, Jones made one of two free throws and then Myles buried a 3-pointer with 38.4 seconds left to tie it at 71.
One classic finish was to come.
Penn made it memorable.
“I think it’s all about being resilient,” Myles said. “Brandon’s shot was a perfect example of that. He didn’t think about the last couple shots he missed. He just thought about the present — what we needed. He delivered.”
NOTES: Rider freshman forward Junior Fortunat was on crutches and did not play. He has a foot injury and Dempsey said he is hopeful the 6-foot-9 Canadian can play this weekend when the Broncs travel to Canisius Thursday. … The Broncs have won five in a row and seven of the last nine in the series. … Rider improved to 4-3 in afternoon games this season. The Broncs, who scored 12 points in the first half Friday night, had 12 before the first media timeout Sunday afternoon.