Game 3: Monmouth (1-1) at Rider (1-1)
When: Saturday, 3 p.m., Alumni Gymnasium, 107.7 FM The Bronc
Last time out: Rider lost to Stony Brook, 54-46; Monmouth lost to No. 20 Notre Dame, 84-57.
Background: The Broncs are starting to carve out an identity.
That much is clear to coach Kevin Baggett through two games.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” the first-year boss said. “Defensively, we have to hang our hats there. We held both teams to 54 and we’ve given ourselves a chance to win both games. They’re starting to understand if we do that, we’ll have a chance to win even when we struggle offensively.”
While Baggett is changing the defensive identity at Rider, King Rice, in his second season at Monmouth, is doing the same at the shore.
The Hawks are 1-1 with an impressive 29-point win over Hofstra in the opener.
“They’re much better,” Baggett said. “They’re playing harder. … He has them running, jumping, trapping and playing in transition.”
Rider has won five straight and seven of the last eight against Monmouth. The Broncs are 11-4 against the Hawks since leaving the Northeast Conference.
Baggett’s not buying into any rivalry between the two Jersey schools that used to battle each other in the NEC.
“I’m trying to take every game as it is and win every game,” Baggett said. “Whether (the opponent) is from New York, New Jersey or Philadelphia, I don’t care about rivalries this young in my career and I just want these guys to focus on the game at hand.”
His players aren’t taking the bait either.
“I can’t really say one game is more important than another for us right now,” said junior guard Anthony Myles, who is off to a good start, averaging 12.5 point per game.
“We’re just trying to get better and that makes every game important to us right now.”
This is the last of three straight at home to open the season. The Broncs board a plane Sunday morning for a four-game road trip beginning Monday night in South Carolina against Frank Martin’s Gamecocks.
Projected starting lineups: Rider: G-Nurideen Lindsey (Jr. 21.5 ppg), G-Jon Thompson (Sr. 9 ppg), G-Anthony Myles (Jr. 12.5 ppg), F-Danny Stewart (Jr. 8 ppg), F-Junior Fortunat (So. 2 ppg).
Monmouth: G-Dion Nesmith (Sr. 8 ppg), G-Jesse Steele (Sr. 7 ppg), G-Andrew Nicholas (So. 18.5 ppg), F-Marcus Ware (Sr. 7 ppg), Ed Waite (Sr. 7.5 ppg).
Rider player to watch: Stewart is due for a breakout game. He was just 1 of 9 against Stony Brook — although he did at least try to attack the basket — and Baggett criticized his forwards for lack of production afterward. Look to see if Stewart answers the challenge and comes up with a big game.
Monmouth player to watch: At 6-foot-6 and 205-pounds, Nicholas creates matchup problems for the Broncs. He likes to play on the perimeter — attempting 11 3-pointers in two games — and will be a tough cover for Rider’s guards. He’s also too quick for the forwards. Nicholas, a sophomore, had 28 points in the season-opening victory over Hofstra.
Harvard 79, Manhattan 49: Jaspers in big trouble as long as George Beamon is out of the lineup.
Quinnipiac 98, Iona 92: Gaels go down in OT at Paradise Jam despite 40 points from Lamont Jones.
Bucknell 88, Niagara 71: Purple Eagles fall at home after being outscored by 22 in second half.
CS Northridge 68, Siena 64: Did you know this game was played at the Jenny Craig Pavillion in San Diego. Keep the double-double counter going for O.D. Anosike (19 points, 12 rebounds).