Morning Run — Game 28: Rider 67, Marist 63
Quick reaction: Rider came into its final MAAC homestand knowing it needed to sweep both games with the western New York trip coming up, and although the Broncs (15-13, 10-6) trailed by 11 in the second half Sunday, they got the job done. Jon Thompson, Danny Stewart and Zedric Sadler combined for the team's final 15 points. Sadler continues to emerge as a favorite of coach Kevin Baggett, earning crunch-time minutes with the confidence to take big shots. He hit clutch 3 with the shot clock winding down late in the second half. Stewart's basket with 26.2 seconds remaining — the ball never went through the hoop because Marist's Adam Kemp was correctly called for goaltending — finished the job.
Tiebreaking business: Rider's win coupled with Niagara's victory over Manhattan means the Broncs cannot lose a tiebreaker to the Jaspers.
Why's that important? The Broncs can finish no worse than sixth, which means they stay out of the dreaded Friday night play-in round.
Here are the MAAC standings with one round-16 game to be played Monday night. The bottom four teams would have to win four games in four days to claim the conference's automatic NCAA berth. Usually 9-9 is good enough to keep you out of the play-in, but either Manhattan or Fairfield could finish .500 in the league and face the play-in.
1. Niagara (12-4) — (vs. Rider; vs. St. Peter's)
2. Loyola (11-5) — (at Iona; vs. Manhattan)
3. Canisius (10-6) — (vs. St. Peter's; vs. Rider)
3. Rider (10-6) — (at Niagara; at Canisius)
5. Iona (9-6) — (at Fairfield; vs. Loyola; vs. Siena)
6. Fairfield (8-7) — (vs. Iona; at Manhattan; at Marist)
7. Manhattan (8-8) — (vs. Fairfield; at Loyola)
8. Marist (4-12) — (at Siena; vs. Fairfield)
8. Siena (4-12) — (vs. Marist; at Iona)
10. St. Peter's (3-13) — (at Canisius; at Niagara)
Here's how Rider's scenario breaks down: According to league tiebreaker policy, if two teams split the regular season series the tie is broken by looking at record against the highest finishing school on down. Since the Broncs have beat Niagara and Manhattan was swept by the Purple Eagles, that gives Rider the edge. Since both have split against Iona and the best the Jaspers can do against Loyola is a split, the only way they could win a tiebreaker against the Broncs is if Canisius leapfrogs Niagara. However, the only way that is possible is if Rider sweeps the season series from the Purple Eagles, thus giving it 11 league wins, making the above scenario impossible.
Rider can still win the regular-season title if it goes 2-0 on the Buffalo trip, but would also need the following to happen:
— Loyola losses to Iona and Manhattan
— Iona loss to either Fairfield or Siena
— Niagara loss to St. Peter's
Got all that?
Hope so, there's a quiz later.
End game: Rider found itself with the ball up two inside the final minute Sunday needing a basket to put the game away. Strangely, it took until Game 28 for it to be in that position.
Baggett called timeout. What would the play be? They had to run one because there were 45 seconds on the clock and Marist didn't need to foul.
Baggett got the matchup he wanted. Danny Stewart with a chance to drive one-on-one guarded by Adam Kemp.
The Marist center, while big — he's 6-10, 235 pounds — isn't as quick as the smaller Stewart. Rider's forward drove baseline and though Kemp swatted the shot away, he was correctly called for a goaltend.
"I designed that out of the timeout to make sure we got that in Danny's hands," Baggett said. "Danny's smaller and quicker to be able to get by Kemp and fortunately he was able to get to the other side of the rim, which he had to do so Kemp couldn't block it, and fortunately it was a goaltend."