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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 ( or email

Friday, January 3, 2014

Despite 3-0 MAAC start, Rider searching for top form

Kevin Baggett isn't happy with his team's defense. Photo by John Blaine

The way Kevin Baggett sounded after Rider hung on for a two-point victory over Niagara Thursday night, you would have been hard pressed to know his team just improved to 3-0 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Twelve games through the season, the type of defensive performance Baggett expects — and he’s a defense-first kind of guy — is no where to be found.

Against the Purple Eagles, the Broncs had a 10-point lead with 2:55 remaining and saw that trimmed to one with 5.6 seconds left. They only held on after Danny Stewart was able to come up with a rebound on an intentionally-missed free throw in the final seconds.

Opponents are averaging 81.2 points per game and shooting 49.6 percent against Rider.

Baggett said some of that can be attributed to the new rules that were put in place to increase scoring, but he also realizes it’s a stark contrast to a year ago when opponents managed just 63.3 points per game.

“I thought the last two games we really played bad and we’ve taken a step back defensively,” said the second-year coach referencing the tight win over Penn in which the Quakers shot nearly 60 percent, forcing his team to make a miraculous rally to pull out a victory.

“I’ve seen more layups (against Niagara) than I’ve seen in some high school games and it’s certainly not acceptable and I just don’t like the way we’re playing,” Baggett said.

With the Broncs (7-5) beginning a three-game road trip Saturday night at Siena (5-9, 1-2) — a school they swept the season series from for the first time last season — Baggett has cause for concern.

The coach was quick to point out that the good fortune of this 3-0 start won’t last if this defensive effort continues.

“As a coach, I’ve come in here twice and said we’re not playing well,” Baggett said. “I don’t mind losing, but I want to lose the right way and know we are playing hard, we’re playing defense and we’re playing with a sense of urgency with a lot of effort and I just don’t think the last two games we’ve been doing that.”

But a bad win is still better than a good loss. Rider has found a way to come out on the right side of these last two results.

That can be attributed to an offense that is greatly improved from a year ago, going from 63.7 points per game to 80.8. The emergence of freshman guard Jimmie Taylor has certainly helped.

He put in a career-high 24 points Thursday night and is averaging 13 a game to complement seniors Anthony Myles (18.1 ppg) and Stewart (15.6 ppg).

When you throw in Zedric Sadler, the Broncs have four players averaging in double figures and have also got decent contributions off the bench from Kahlil Thomas, Khalil Alford and Tommy Pereira in the victories over Penn and Niagara.

“I know we’re so much better than this,” Baggett said. “We just got find a way to get back and get this thing turned around and play the way we’re capable of playing.”

So time to get back in the gym.

And turn the screws on defense.

“We got to go back to work,” Taylor said. “We came in the locker room after the game and said this was awful. We played awful on the defensive end. We’re going to come in and work.”


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