Morning Run — Game 20: Rider 67, Iona 62
|Iona's David Laury is sandwiched by Rider's Danny Stewart, right, and Tommy Pereira/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE|
Quick reaction: This couldn't be a track meet. That much coach Kevin Baggett was sure of. Rider mucked it just enough, kept the game in the 60s and found a way to beat Iona for its fifth straight win. The Broncs (11-9, 6-2) held the Gaels (12-7, 6-2) to 33.9 percent shooting and 5 of 24 from beyond the arc. So many times Iona has buried opponents under a 3-point barrage, but Rider did a good job making life difficult on the perimeter. Sean Armand, a 44.1 percent 3-point shooter, went an uncharacteristic 4 of 11, while Lamont Jones needed 16 shots (he did make 10 of 11 free throws) for his 20 points. This was the kind of game you have to get the Gaels in if you're going to beat them. The Broncs even left a handful of points on the floor with missed layups — there must have been six or seven that rolled around the rim and spilled out — and an 8-for-15 afternoon at the line. But as Danny Stewart put it, "Regardless of how many shots we missed, we got the win by any means possible." And that's all that matters.
Contender or Pretender: The question was simple. Are you a contender?
"Absolutely," Baggett said.
It's hard to argue with him. Rider has won five straight — all in the MAAC — and at 6-2 in the league is just one game behind first-place Niagara.
"Like I said when I took this job, if we defend, we'll give ourselves chances to win games," Baggett said. "That's what we've done. If we continue to do that, we will be a contender."
Of course, when your're off to a 6-2 start, expectations start to change. The Broncs have to deal with that now.
They're not sneaking up on anybody.
"That's another challenge," Baggett said. "It's a good problem to have. I know this group will respond. This was just one game, it's a long season and we still have 10 conference games to go. We'll enjoy this one, but we'll get back to being focused to play Canisius coming up."
Lindsey Update: Baggett said Lindsey was close to playing Sunday, but had a slight setback during conditioning Saturday afternoon.
Lindsey has to pass a series of concussion tests before he can be cleared to play. Baggett said he didn't pass enough of them to be able to go Sunday.
The coach said barring another setback he expects to have the junior guard, who is averaging 10.2 points per game, back for Friday night's tilt with Canisius.
Tough Enough: Lamont Jones had some stinging words for his teammates after Sunday's loss.
Iona had its six-game win streak snapped, something that didn't sit well with Jones. He didn't take long to question his team's toughness.
"Can't give nobody heart. Can't give nobody toughness," he said. "That's something you have to have in you. That's something somebody instills in you being a kid. We have to be tough. We have to have a will to win."
Maybe he feels like some complacency is seeping in. Jones said there are too many guys just OK with winning some and losing some.
For a guy that's seen the top — he reached the Elite Eight with Arizona two seasons ago — Jones isn't going to accept that.
"It's not cool," he said. "It's not satisfying to guys who have been there. We have a lot of guys who haven't been there, been at the top level, and they're just happy being at the top of the pack.
"It's not gelling right now. Everyone was high on us because we won six in a row. All of those were close games. We weren't blowing people out or putting the pedal to the metal on people. We snuck through on the skin of our teeth."
The Gaels are still trying to blend some pieces together. This was only David Laury's 10th game since becoming eligible.
Although Laury had 10 points and 17 rebounds Sunday, they're still trying to adjust to having the 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward in the middle.
"He doesn't have a clue on what we're doing on either end of the court yet," said coach Tim Cluess. "For us to be better, we need him to kind of pick it up on both ends. How many times tonight was he point blank at the rim? He has to put those in. Once he gets in shape and used to the competition, he'll be better at that."
If Jones' intent was to light fire under his teammates, we'll learn quickly if it works. After hosting St. Peter's, which already has a win over Iona, the Gaels have three straight on the road — at Loyola, Niagara and Canisius.
That stretch may define their season.
Was this the wake-up call?
"Yes, definitely," Jones said.