LAWRENCEVILLE — Even Jon Thompson had a hard time believing he had yet to score 20 points in a college game.
Rider’s senior guard came into Sunday afternoon’s contest against
Loyola with 66 starts to his name. His 67th turned out to be a special
Thompson scored a career-high 23 points, Danny Stewart also
finished with 23 and the Broncs won three in a row for the first time
this season with a 64-57 victory over the Greyhounds at Alumni
“Uh, no,” said Thompson when asked if he knew he was approaching a career high.
So how does a guy with that much experience never score 20 points in a game?
“Too passive,” laughed Thompson, whose previous career high was 19 in last season’s MAAC quarterfinal against Fairfield.
Not on Sunday.
Thompson consistently drove to the basket,
finishing 8 of 10 from the field and 6 of 9 at the foul line, including
his last four as Rider closed out the game.
Stewart was equally good.
The junior forward was coming off a
22-point, 16-rebound effort in the win at Manhattan, and outplayed
conference preseason Player of the Year Erik Etherly. Stewart connected
on 8 of 12 from the floor and 7 of 8 free throws.
When Thompson and Stewart are clicking at once, Kevin Baggett has a pretty good team.
“These are my leaders,” Baggett said. “You certainly need two, and
more often than not, three. … We need our veterans — who have been in
this thing since I was an assistant coach and now as a head coach — they
understand what it takes to win this league or win a game in this
Anthony Myles added 10 points, despite a 1-of-5 day by knocking down 7
of 9 free throws. Rider (9-9, 4-2) went 20 of 26 from the line.
The Broncs trail only Iona and Niagara, which both improved to 5-1 in the league with wins Sunday.
Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos did not make the trip due to a personal reason. Assistant G.G. Smith stood in for him.
Robert Olson led the Greyhounds (12-6, 4-2) with 25 points but needed
22 shots, including 13 attempts from 3-point territory. Etherly and
Dylon Cormier both had 21 points in Loyola’s win over the Broncs on Jan.
4, but combined for just 20 points on 6 of 21 shooting.
Etherly struggled defending the aggressive Stewart, picking up his third foul with 16:52 remaining.
“That was the key for us, understanding their personnel,” Baggett
said. “They’re a good team, a veteran team. I thought our guys
understood exactly what we were trying to get done defensively. We
competed, and I’m proud of them.”
Stewart said he doesn’t need any extra motivation going against Etherly.
“I’m trying to get up and win every game,” said Stewart, who was
snubbed when the preseason all-conference teams were announced. “I just
do whatever it takes to win.”
The Broncs built an 11-point lead with 6:30 remaining, but victory wouldn’t come easy.
Loyola scored 10 of the next 11 points, cutting the lead to 54-52 on a
pair of Etherly free throws with 1:36 left. Rider didn’t make it easy
on itself during that stretch, committing four turnovers while failing
to score for 4:17.
Stewart finally answered with a layup off a nice pass from Shawn
Valentine and Etherly committed a careless turnover giving the ball back
Thompson hit two free throws and then found a streaking Valentine for dunk after a steal by Zedric Sadler.
Baggett’s crunch-time lineup didn’t include Nurideen Lindsey (two points), who played just nine minutes in the second half.
Baggett said that was because he didn’t do some things he needed to
and he wanted the taller Valentine in the game to help make entry passes
into the post. The coach added that Lindsey will be back in the lineup
for Thursday’s game at St. Peter’s and the team will need his points
But Sunday, “we wanted to make sure we got the ball in the right hands at the right time,” Baggett
Those hands belonged to Thompson.
“We still have a little way to go,” Thompson said. “Even with this
win, we came to the locker room saying we got more to build. The spirit
is up in our locker room.”