Morning Run — Game 13: Rutgers 68, Rider 56
Quick reaction: As ugly as this one was, Rider can look back and see it had a chance to win with five minutes to go. But turnovers, empty trips and a technical foul on coach Kevin Baggett all proved costly as Rider couldn't get any closer than three despite having several opportunities to do so. The Broncs made 14 field goals and had 16 turnovers — usually not a good combination. They made eight 3-pointers ( 8 for 23) but still left several points out there by misfiring on open looks. "I think we gave one away," said guard Anthony Myles. Good move by Baggett switching Jon Thompson and Nurideen Lindsey. Thompson protects the ball better and gets teammates open looks — exactly what he did Friday. This is going to take some of the pressure off Lindsey, who has been struggling in recent weeks. Rutgers was certainly there for the taking on an afternoon in which the early start time and Scarlet Knights bowl game made for a light crowd at the RAC. Rider has now lost three straight for the first time all season. Baggett says this group is resilient, that is certainly going to be tested with a trip to Delaware on New Year's Eve and a chance to break even for 2012.
Stud of the game: Credit Danny Stewart for bouncing back from a poor game to lead the Broncs with 20 points, including a career high 14 of 14 from the free-throw line. The junior forward was shut out in the loss to Princeton, but took it upon himself to be more aggressive.
It is something he has to do with more consistency. Stewart has a nice low-post game. He can score with his back to the basket or face up from 12 feet and drive. Friday, he outplayed Rutgers' more-heralded Wally Judge, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward who transferred from Kansas State.
As MAAC play looms, Rider needs Stewart to score 13-16 points a night and grab 8-11 rebounds. He had 20 and eight Friday.
"There has to be a balance for all our post guys so people can't just press out on our guards," Baggett said. "Danny brought that post presence (Friday), but we have to get our other guys — Dera and Junior — going on the offensive end as well."
For Rutgers, senior Dane Miller, it feels like he's been there forever, provided the energy in the second half, scoring 17 of his 18 points. The Scarlet Knights needed it too, because the dynamic backcourt of Eli Carter and Myles Mack — both averaging over 16 ppg — combined for just 16 points (15 by Carter).
The Scarlet Knights finished 3-0 in their three games without coach Mike Rice, who was serving the final game of his three-game suspension.
"With Rice being gone, we had to keep his intensity, his formula," Miller said. "Before this, a lot of people didn't really believe, but I feel like getting these three wins without the head boss, people will feel like, 'OK, they are legit a little bit.'"
Rice returns to the sideline for Rutgers' Big East opener Jan. 2 at Syracuse.
Dud of the game: Baggett got a technical foul at the worst possible time. With Rider down five and 4:12 remaining, the coach thought Thompson got fouled driving to the basket. It wasn't called and the ball came off Thompson's leg and was awarded to Rutgers.
Baggett, in his defense, had a legitimate gripe, but that was a time to hold your tongue. Carter made both free throws to put Rutgers up seven. It aided the Scarlet Knights in an 8-0 run the put the contest out of reach.
Baggett said he didn't feel like it was a mistake on his part. "It's not. I just thought I saw something the ref didn't and he called a technical on me." But it was costly to his team. Remember, he's a first-year coach and still figuring out how to work officials. Friday, he stepped over the line. He'll learn from this.
Bucknell 66, Loyola 46: If the Bison can get the Patriot's auto berth, they are going to be a dangerous double-digit seed in March. Mike Muscala, a 6-foot-11 forward some project as a first-round pick, had 29 points and eight rebounds.