The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Game 30: Rider (16-13) at Niagara (17-11, 12-4)
LAWRENCEVILLE — The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference race will come down to the final weekend.
Seven teams are jostling for position as Rider heads north for the difficult Buffalo trip to conclude the regular season.
“At the end of the day, you want it to come down to the end of the
year because you have a chance to be at the top of your league,” said
coach Kevin Baggett. “I’m happy about that. It’s a tough two games to
finish up with. I have to believe it’s the toughest in the league.”
Niagara, Thursday night’s opponent, is in first place at 17-11
overall and 12-4 in the league. Canisius (17-11, 10-6) and Rider (16-13,
10-6) are tied for third, while Iona and Fairfield are both 9-7 and
Manhattan is 8-8.
Morning Run — Game 29: Rider 61, Charleston Southern 54
Khalil Alford stepped up for Rider/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
Quick reaction: With its 16 victory of the season, Rider assured itself that it won't finish below .500. That's a pretty good return for Kevin Baggett, who is four wins away from equaling the program record for victories by a first-year coach (20 by Robert Greenwood in 1962-63). The Broncs shook off another slow start Saturday to get past Big South leaders Charleston Southern (16-10) in a BracketBuster. The Bucs were playing their third game of the week — they played a league game Thursday — and the weary travel legs were evident in the second half. CSU came in averaging 9.3 threes per game, but connected on just 4 of 19 from behind the arc. Rider got nice contributions from Junior Fortunat (12 points) and Khalil Alford (eight second-half points).
Rider gets unlikely contributions to get past Charleston Southern
Khalil Alford had eight points in the second half/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
LAWRENCEVILLE — On an afternoon when his team needed a boost, Rider
coach Kevin Baggett got it from a pair of unlikely contributors.
Junior Fortunat scored 12 points, without missing a shot, and
Khalil Alford put in eight points — all in the second half — as the
Broncs knocked off Big South leaders Charleston Southern, 61-54, in a
BracketBuster Saturday afternoon at Alumni Gymnasium.
Fortunat finished 5 of 5 from the field and 2 of 2 from the foul
line, while adding eight rebounds. The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward played
although his father is gravely ill.
“For him to play the way he played today, I’m proud of him,” Baggett
said. “I’m praying for him, and for him to respond the way he did with
the adversity he’s dealing with, I’m happy for Junior.”
Alford hit two key second-half 3-pointers, helping Rider wrestle the lead away from the Bucs for good.
Rider ready for Charleston Southern in final BracketBuster
Rider coach Kevin Baggett said he likes BracketBuster matchups/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
LAWRENCEVILLE — When his team meets Charleston Southern Saturday
afternoon in a BracketBuster, Rider coach Kevin Baggett is sure of one
The Bucs are going to put it up from long range.
Charleston Southern ranks fifth nationally is 3-pointers made per game with 9.3 and averages 25 attempts per contest.
The Bucs (16-9, 11-3) lead the Big South’s South Division by two
games over Gardner-Webb and UNC Asheville and have won three straight,
including a pair of games already this week.
“We’re going to really need to defend the 3-point line,” said
Baggett, whose Broncs allow 5.4 makes per game from distance. “We’re
going to need to get back defensively because they want to get up and
down. This is going to be a good challenge for us.”
This is Rider’s eighth appearance — 3-4 record — in the
BracketBuster series, which was developed by ESPN as a way for mid-major
programs to get national exposure late in the season.
Over the years, the event has grown to include numerous mid-major conferences around the country.
Rider women have something to play for in home stretch
Caitlin Bopp and Rider try to hand Marist its first conference loss/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
LAWRENCEVILLE — Caitlin Bopp can’t help herself.
She checks the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings daily.
“Just in case something happens to change,” she laughs.
Well, you can’t really blame her.
For the first time in a long time, the Rider women’s basketball team
enters the final two weekends of play in the middle of a tight race for
seeding rather than anchored to the bottom of the league table.
The Broncs (13-12, 8-6) are in fourth place, two games behind
second-place Fairfield (which they swept this season), yet just two
games in front of seventh-place Siena.
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.
Rider rallies past Marist, sweeps final conference homestand
Anthony Myles puts up a shot over Chavaughn Lewis/ Photo by GREGG SLABODA
LAWRENCEVILLE — Rider is staying out of the play-in round at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
The Broncs did so by sweeping their final conference homestand with a 67-63 come-from-behind victory over Marist Sunday afternoon at Alumni Gymnasium.
“This team is so much better than playing in that game with the bottom four teams,” said coach Kevin Baggett, whose team remains two games out of first but can finish no worse than sixth. “I just knew this team would grind it out and find a way to win these two games.”
Rider improved to 15-13 overall and 10-6 in the league. According to MAAC tiebreaker policies, if two schools finish tied and split the season series, their record against the highest finishing team on down is used to break the tie.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The game between Princeton and Harvard Saturday night had been billed as one of the marquee dates on the Ivy League schedule — a clash between bitter rivals and the two league favorites that would go as far as any in determining who will eventually be crowned the Ivy champion
The game — played in front of a capacity crowd and a national TV audience in Harvard’s historic Lavietes Pavilion — didn’t quite live up to the expectations of the large Princeton contingent on hand, as Harvard was able to pull away in the second half for a relatively convincing 69-57 win. With the loss, Princeton falls 5-2 in league play, a game-and-a-half behind the 7-1 Crimson.
“We’ve got some issues,” coach Mitch Henderson said after the game. “There has to be some substance to what we are doing, and Harvard was just a step faster than us tonight to balls you have to come up with.”
HANOVER, N.H. — If there were any worry about a potential trap game
against Dartmouth the night before Princeton’s big matchup with Harvard,
the Tigers put those concerns to bed fairly quickly Friday night.
More than 300 miles away from Jadwin Gym in its first Ivy road game
of the season, Princeton put on a strong offensive performance, beating
the Big Green 73-55. With the win, the Tigers improve to 5-1 in the
conference and 12-8 overall.
“We definitely weren’t overlooking anything, by any means,” said
sophomore Denton Koon, who led the Tigers with 18 points. “This is a
good team with a lot of young guys that are very talented. We came here
ready to play, knowing that we had two games this weekend.”
Princeton women unsatisfied with win over Dartmouth
PRINCETON — The Princeton women had just won their 30th straight Ivy
League game, but Niveen Rasheed sensed coach Courtney Banghart wasn’t
Even with Friday night’s 77-65 victory over Dartmouth at Jadwin Gym,
the Tigers didn’t feel like they met their own expectations.
“We were all mad at ourselves,” said Rasheed, who finished with 25
points and 12 rebounds after a slow start. “We did not play the way we
wanted to play. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. We just didn’t
come out to play the way we should have come out to play. (In the Ivy
League) each game is the biggest game of the year.”
Zedric Sadler had a career-high 16 points/Photo by GREGG SLABODA
Quick reaction: Job done. Rider (14-13, 9-6) turned on the jets in the second half for a comfortable victory. Even though St. Peter's was bottom of the league and winless on the road in conference games, coach Kevin Baggett expected a battle. For 20 minutes the Broncs got one — they trailed by eight with 2:36 left in the first half before an 8-0 run to close the period evened the score. Anthony Myles (17 points) continued his strong season and Zedric Sadler had a career-high 16 points. Rider has one conference home game remaining — Sunday against Marist — before the western New York trip to end league play.
LAWRENCEVILLE — Anthony Myles decided to ask one of his friends on
the women’s team for some pink socks to pair with his red sneakers. It
was Valentine’s Day after all.
Turned out to be the perfect match — Cupid’s arrow not necessary.
Myles scored 17 points, Zedric Sadler netted a career-high 16 and
Rider avoided a Valentine’s nightmare with a 72-57 victory over St.
Peter’s Thursday night at Alumni Gymnasium.
“We need to separate ourselves,” said Myles, who had 13 of his 17
in the second half as the Broncs overcame a sloppy start and outscored
the Peacocks 41-26 after intermission. “This is the point in the season
we need to show that we are a contender and can win this league.”
Rider improved to 14-13 overall and 9-6 in the MAAC, pulling within 1
1/2 games of idle Niagara for first place. St. Peter’s fell to 8-17 and
The final conference homestand continues Sunday against Marist
before league play concludes with the western New York trip in two
Trenton native Bridgette Mitchell begins journey into coaching at Wagner
Bridgette Mitchell, a Trenton native, played at Duke and is now coaching at Wagner/ Photo courtesy of Wagner Athletics
Mitchell was back home in Trenton hosting a free basketball clinic
during the summer at the West Ward Center on Prospect Street when it
finally hit her.
“I was like, ‘You know, this may be my calling,’” she said.
In that moment, Mitchell decided she wanted to coach. It would
allow her to stay connected to the game she’s played all her life and
help young girls reach the next level.
It’s not like she doesn’t have the credentials. Mitchell was the
Trentonian’s Area Player of the Year in 2006 while at the Peddie School —
she’s the program’s second all-time leading scorer — and went on to
play in four NCAA tournaments at Duke University, and then
professionally for teams in France and Poland.
Dera Nd-Ezuma only started playing basketball as a junior in high school/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
LAWRENCEVILLE — Mention the Super Eagles to Dera Nd-Ezuma and watch the smile light up his face.
“They make us proud,” he said.
The Super Eagles — the nickname
for Nigeria’s national soccer team — recently won the African Cup of
Nations for the first time in 19 years. Nd-Ezuma grew up playing soccer
on dusty fields in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, located in the central
part of the country.
“I was a defensive midfielder,” he laughs.
There was one thing — albeit not so little — that made Nd-Ezuma
stand out from all the other kids. He was tall — really tall.
Momo Jones had 32 points, helping Iona down Rider/ File Photo by JOHN BLAINE
Quick reaction: Even in defeat, Rider (13-13, 8-6) played pretty well. Iona (15-10, 9-5) simply made big shots when it had to, snapping its three-game losing streak. Lamont Jones had one of those nights where he simply couldn't be stopped. The senior — he's the frontrunner for league Player of the Year — finished with 32 points. Matched against Jon Thompson — one of the top defenders in the conference — Jones had his way. He attacked the rim relentlessly, and for his efforts, shot 13 free throws (he made 11). The Gaels got to the line 26 times, making 21, while the Broncs were 10 of 17. Thompson put in a super performance himself, scoring a career-high 26 points. He had 12 straight Rider points at one stretch in the second half, including a four-point play.
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Time and time again, Rider coach Kevin Baggett has called Jon Thompson the heart and soul of this team.
Without him, it’s hard to think where the Broncs would have been Saturday night against Iona.
Thompson scored a career-high 26 points, single-handedly keeping Rider close to Iona in a tightly contested Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game.
Ultimately, his heroics weren’t enough.
For every play Thompson made, either Lamont Jones or Sean Armand had an answer.
The Gaels’ dynamic backcourt combined for 56 points as they snapped a three-game skid, dropping the Broncs, 78-71, at the Hynes Athletic Center.
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."
LAWRENCEVILLE — Anthony Myles had the hot hand, so Rider kept on feeding him.
Myles matched a career-high 23 points, Jon Thompson added 18 and
the Broncs pulled within two games of first-place Niagara following a
72-69 victory Thursday night at Alumni Gymnasium.
“I don’t ever think we were ever out of (the mix),” said Myles, who
finished 8 of 13 from the floor, including four 3s. “It was one of
those things where we were fighting to stay consistent. Rather than
dropping we want to go up instead of down.”
Niagara played without leading scorer Antoine Mason. The sophomore
guard, who’s second in the MAAC in scoring at 18.9 points per game,
injured his ankle in a double-overtime loss on Feb. 2 to Loyola.
He warmed up with the team and dressed for the game, but did not play.
Rider to host Charleston Southern in BracketBuster
Rider will host Charleston Southern in its Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster game on Saturday, Feb. 23.
The Buccaneers, out of the Big South, are 12-7 overall and 7-1 in the league.
Broncs coach Kevin Baggett has ties to the Big South, having served as an assistant at Coastal Carolina.
“Having coached in the Big South Conference I am well aware of the teams in that league and how underrated some of those teams are,” Baggett said. “Charleston Southern is a very good team.”
The Bucs have four players scoring in double-figures, led by sophomore guard Saah Nimley, who averages 16.1 points and five rebounds per game. He had 27 points and 10 boards in Charleston Southern’s loss to Gardner-Webb Thursday, its first in the conference.
Finding the hot hand(s): Early in the season, there was some
question about whether a secondary scorer would emerge behind Ian Hummer. That
point seems almost moot now, as its clear that the Tigers have at least three
other viable options that can create their own offense in T.J. Bray (9 vs.
Cornell, 17 vs. Columbia), Denton Koon (22, 12) and Will Barrett (14, 10).
Princeton did a good job not forcing the ball into Hummer’s hands (He had 22
and 16) but letting its points come within the flow of the offense.
Reacting to pressure, both kinds: After a bit of a shaky
start against the Cornell press, the Tigers were able to reestablish control of
the game, mostly by throwing the ball down low to Hummer. When the two teams
came back out after the half, the once-electric Big Red pressure looked a bit
deflated, and the Tigers had no trouble taking advantage with a series of
transition dunks. In addition to ball pressure, Princeton also did a nice job
responding to the pressure of two must-win games. This brings me to my next
Ian Hummer, emotional leader: Hummer was perhaps as visibly
emotional as he’s been all season in the first half against Cornell, when it
looked like Princeton was going to have a tough time against the Big Red’s
speed. Hummer took control of the game, scoring 18 of his 22 points in the
Tigers first-half comeback. Against Columbia, Hummer took the temperature of
the game and realized he wasn’t shooting as well as some of his teammates, so
instead he went into facilitator mode with seven assists and zero turnovers.
Guards in the low post: When your starting backcourt is the
6’5” Bray and 6’8” Koon, you are going to have a lot of size mismatches. The
Tigers did a nice job over the weekend of taking advantage of the smaller
Cornell and Columbia backcourts by posting their two guards, who both showed a
solid ability to finish inside. This is an advantage of playing Hans Brase
instead of Brendan Connolly, because Brase can step outside and spread the
floor while Connolly needs to be near the rim to be effective.
Finishing strong: Remember that team that couldn’t hold on
to second half leads? They were nowhere to be found this weekend, replaced by a
team that seemed to grow stronger as the two games progressed. Princeton
outscored its opponent in both second periods, blowing out Cornell 41-29 and
making a series of clutch baskets late to edge Columbia 35-30.
Defending dribble penetration: The Tigers are big, but they aren’t
quick, and the nearly cost them against Columbia. Though the Lions primary
scorer Brian Barbour was held in check with just 6 points, freshman Maodo Lo
was way quicker than anyone Princeton could put in front of him, finishing with
16 points. With all that length, the Tigers still need to shore up their
help-side defense to prevent explosive guards like Lo from getting to the rim.
Hans Brase against Columbia: Though he finished with 8
rebounds in just 19 minutes, Brase struggled on the defensive end and was loose
with the ball offensively, committing three turnovers. That prompted coach
Mitch Henderson to go with Connolly down the stretch, mainly for his near
seven-feet of defensive presence. While the matchup with Columbia center Mark
Cisco was probably a better one for Connolly, Princeton’s season really turned
around after Brase was put into the starting lineup. At this point, it’s hard
to imagine Henderson going back to Connolly much (he played just one minute
against Cornell) so the Tigers need Brase’s performance against the Lions to be
an aberration an not a new norm.
Who: Rider (11-12, 6-5) at Marist (5-17, 2-9). When: Sunday, 2 p.m., McCann Arena, 107.7 FM The Bronc. Last time out: Rider lost to Fairfield, 69-59; Marist lost to St. Peter's, 70-68 in OT. Background: The Broncs look to snap a three-game skid against the Red Foxes, who have lost 11 of their last 12.
struggles have been on the offensive end. During this losing streak, it
has failed to score 60 points in each of the three games.
Stewart shook off a sore knee to score 22 points against Fairfield, but
the Broncs were battered down low by Maurice Barrow, who finished with a
career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds.
They also reverted to turning the ball over, coughing it up 17 times.
Rider had three turnovers during Barrow's personal 8-0 run that pushed the Stags' lead from 50-48 to 58-48.
Marist also lost its third in a row when St. Peter's Chris Burke made a layup with six seconds remaining in overtime.
The Red Foxes have already secured their fifth consecutive losing season — all under coach Chuck Martin.
Carleigh Brown gives Rider women boost in win over Manhattan
LAWRENCEVILLE — The Rider women needed someone to provide a spark.
With senior center Caitlin Bopp missing because of a stomach
illness, coach Lynn Milligan turned to her most experienced player.
In stepped Carleigh Brown — a veteran graduate student making her
109th career appearance — to deliver two clutch plays for the Broncs in a
60-57 victory over Manhattan Thursday night at Alumni Gymnasium that
extended their winning streak to three.