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Monday, February 24, 2014

Rider hits rock bottom in loss to Siena

LAWRENCEVILLE — This is rock bottom.

Rider head coach Kevin Baggett said as much after his team lost for the fifth time in six games following a 69-60 setback against Siena in which the Broncs were held scoreless in the last two minutes and surrendered the final nine points.

“We have to find a way out of it,” Baggett said, “because no one is going to feel sorry for us.”

With Sunday’s loss, Rider has dropped four straight at Alumni Gymnasium and is running out of time — just two regular-season games remain — to turn things around before the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.

The Saints (13-16, 9-9) rubbed salt in the wound by wrestling fifth place — and the first-round bye that comes with it — away from the Broncs (13-14, 9-9) by virtue of a season sweep.

The last two minutes were particularly troubling.

After freshman Jimmie Taylor raced end-to-end for a layup, evening the score at 60, Siena finished with the final nine points.

Saints sophomore Ryan Oliver, who had no points and attempted just one shot, drove left and put up a floater over senior Tommy Pereira that dropped with 1:29 remaining.

“(They) probably thought he was going to take the 3, you know, which I would have too,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “That’s why it’s an unbelievable play. They thought he was going to take the three and then he goes left and pulls up.”

The next seven points all came from the free throw line as the Broncs scuffled on the offensive end with Anthony Myles, Danny Stewart and Khalil Alford all missing layups.

Baggett could only lament the number of missed layups and another game that got away on his home floor.

“They make their layups, we don’t. They get and-1s, we don’t,” said the second-year coach, whose team is now 6-6 at home. “The game is on the line, they have a young kid that takes my senior to the basket and floats a shot over him. That’s the difference.”

Again, the Broncs struggled on the offensive end, shooting 33.3 percent, including 4 of 22 from behind the arc. They look like the shell of the team that has spent the entire season in the top 10 nationally in the 3-point percentage.

Over the last two contests, Rider is 11 of 48 (22.9 percent) from long range.

“We throw things up at the basket that don’t even look like legitimate threats,” Baggett said.

Taylor led Rider with 15 points on 5 of 7 from the floor, but didn’t take any shots after his layup tied the game at 60.

“It’s crunch time now. I know I have to be more aggressive,” Taylor said. “Yeah, I shot 5 for 7, but I also have to put up more shots. (Baggett) texted me and told me he wants me to put up 10 shots and I didn’t do that today. That’s bad on my part.”

The greater cause for concern is Myles’ poor form.

The senior guard shot 1 of 12 and didn’t score until he made a free throw with 5:58 left. He didn’t convert his only field goal — a conventional three-point play — until the four-minute mark and finished with just the five points.

“I have no answers. I don’t know,” was all Baggett could offer up on his captain.

Lavon Long led three Saints in double figures with 16 points, Marquis Wright finished with 14 and Maurice White had 10 off the bench.

With two games left on the schedule — home to Canisius Friday and at Iona Sunday — there isn’t much time to bounce back. To move back into fifth place, Rider likely needs to win both and have Siena lose one of its final two (at Quinnipiac, vs. Monmouth).

“We’re just not having a good year,” Baggett said. “Whether it be home or away, we’re just not having a good year.”

NOTES: Rider honored its back-to-back NCAA tournament teams from the 1992-93 and 93-94 seasons. The ’94 team was the last one to make an NCAA appearance. … The last time the Broncs lost four straight home games was during the 2006 season when they went 5-7 at Alumni Gym. That team, in former coach Tommy Dempsey’s interim year, only won eight games.


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