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Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko (https://twitter.com/kj_franko) or email kfranko@trentonian.com.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Morning Run — Game 25: Rider 72, Niagara 69

Anthony Myles soars in for the jam/ Photo by JOHN BLAiNE
 Quick reaction: Rider felt like it could crawl back into the conference race Thursday night with a win over first-place Niagara. The Broncs (13-12, 8-5) certainly did that, closing the gap between them and the top to two games. It helped that Antoine Mason, the Purple Eagles' leading scorer (18.9 ppg), didn't pay (more on him later) but Rider played a strong defensive game. Juan'ya Green, Niagara's second leading scorer at over 16 ppg, was limited to seven points on 1 of 16 shooting. The Broncs also scored in the 70s — usually a good sign for them because they are 13-4 when scoring 60 or more. Anthony Myles matched a career-high 23 points and Jon Thompson scored 15 of his 18 in the second half. "I think we forced Niagara to play the style of ball we wanted to play," said coach Kevin Baggett. "When we don't score in the 60s, we struggle."


 
Wild and crazy kids: When learning that Marist had beat Iona — in New Rochelle no less — both parties reacted in disbelief.

Welcome to the MAAC. If Thursday night was any indication, March's conference tournament in Springfield, Mass., is going to be one crazy party.

"I knew how good this league was going to be because I knew how good the players in this league are," Baggett said. "Anybody from the top to the bottom can win. That's why you can't take anybody for granted in this league."

Here's how tight the race is: Despite its loss, Niagara (14-10, 10-3) holds a two-game lead over Rider, Iona and Canisius — all are 8-5. Loyola, which doesn't play its round 13 game until Friday night against Siena, is 1 1/2 games behind the Purple Eagles at 8-4.

Even sixth-place Fairfield is only three games off the pace.

"If you're a coach, whatever league you're in is the toughest league in the country," said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich. "But this league, are you kidding me? But Marist, it was at Iona right? C'mon."

There are five conference games remaining.

"It's an incredible thing," Mihalich said.

Mason misses out: Mihalich decided better to be safe than sorry. So he sat his leading scorer after Mason picked up an ankle injury in a double-overtime loss on Feb. 2 to Loyola.

"He just didn't feel like there was a lot of stuff he could do," said Mihalich, adding Mason, who's second in the MAAC behind Lamont Jones in scoring, is day to day.

With Mason out of the lineup, Rider clamped down on Juan'ya Green, limiting the Purple Eagles' second leading scorer to seven points on 1 of 16 shooting.

Ameen Tanksley did pick up the slack, with a career-high 29 points.

"I thought Ameen was the only guy that matched Rider's toughness," Mihalich said.


Still, Mihalich, although he felt the Broncs out-toughed his team Thurday night, said he could take something away from a road game in which Mason didn't play, Green had an off night and the team still had a chance to win in the final five minutes.

"I'm so proud of this team. I'm a little disappointed tonight," Mihalich said. "We have an incredible will to win and a toughness about us. I didn't think we were as tough as normal tonight, but that is credit to Rider."

The Purple Eagles have dropped two in a row after a 10-game conference winning streak vaulted them to the top of the league standings.

Niagara went 14-19 a year ago with one of the youngest rosters in the country. That trial by fire, Mihalich said, helped prepare his team for this season.
 
"Let them take their lumps, pay their dues. It will pay off down the road," Mihalich said. "We have a long way to go here, but it's starting to pay off."

AROUND THE MAAC
Marist 105, Iona 104 (2 OT): Chavaughn Lewis hit a three-quarter-court shot to send the game to double overtime where the Red Foxes (6-18, 3-10) eventually upset the Gaels (14-10, 8-5) for just their second win in 2013.

Manhattan 67, Canisius 54: The Jaspers (8-15, 6-7) jumped all over the visiting Griffs (15-9, 8-5), grabbing a key victory as they try to avoided the dreaded first round play-ins at the conference tournament. Manhattan is a game behind Fairfield for sixth and travels to Bridgeport Monday (that game was originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon but moved back a day because of the impending storm) for the first meeting between the schools this season.

Fairfield 61, St. Peter's 44: Stags (15-10, 7-6) won fifth straight by beating lowly Peacocks (7-16, 2-11).

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