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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

Saturday, March 8, 2014

MAAC TOURNEY: Iona knocks Rider out in quarterfinals

Over the last 16 days, he got an up-close-and-personal look at how far it has to go.

The Gaels sent the Broncs home from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament in the quarterfinals with a 94-71 victory Saturday afternoon here at the MassMutual Center.

The victory — Iona’s third over Rider (14-17) this season — moved the Gaels (21-9), who have reached the last two NCAA tournaments, into Sunday’s semifinal round.

“I don’t know how many teams in the league have five guys that average double digits,” Baggett said. “It puts a lot of pressure on your defense when you can’t key on one or two guys. That’s certainly where we want to go with our program. Tim Cluess has certainly done a good job with the four years he’s been at Iona.”

The script on Saturday was all too familiar.

The hot-shooting Gaels sprinted out to an early double-digit lead and although the Broncs made a few dents, they never got closer than 10 in the second half.

“They were just in a good groove,” said senior guard Anthony Myles, who scored 19 points in his final game in a Rider uniform. “We were trying to do a good job of keeping our heads up, but they just kept making shots. With a team like Iona, it definitely hurts.”

The Gaels shot 59.6 percent, connecting on 11 of their 25 attempts from beyond the arc. When they weren’t knocking down soul-crushing 3s, they got to the free-throw line, finishing plus-11 at the stripe.

Tre Bowman (28 points) and Sean Armand (20 points) combined to make nine of Iona’s 11 3-pointers.

David Laury — who has guard skills even at 6-foot-9, 255-pounds and is a matchup nightmare for anyone in the MAAC — added 18 points and 11 rebounds.

The Broncs tried to mix up their gameplan from the previous meetings. Baggett started the 6-foot-7 Shawn Valentine in place of Tommy Pereira and tried to press — a defensive tactic that worked for Rider in the two previous meetings — from the opening tip.

“I think you have to try and force them out of their rhythm,” Baggett said. “You have to get back and not let them get easy transition points. You have to put pressure on those guys and make those guys guard. Try and get some of those guys in foul trouble and get them off balance.”

Instead, Iona was ready and attacked the pressure, putting the Broncs in foul trouble. Danny Stewart, Kahlil Thomas and Junior Fortunat all had four by the midway point of the second half. At one point, Baggett had Valentine playing center.

“Anybody is a capable of coming back,” Bowman said. “We don’t try to get too happy. We just tried to keep our foot and the pedal and try to finish them off.”

When Stewart fouled out with 12 points in his final college game, he and Baggett shared a warm embrace.

“I told him I loved him and I thanked him for everything,” Baggett said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”

Iona is trying to become the first top seed to win the MAAC tournament since Siena did it in 2010.

“I think the biggest difference is the target,” Cluess said. “Everyone is shooting at you. When you’re a different seed, you’re just worried about your next game and trying to survive. We kind of embraced that. We’re expecting the best shot from everyone we play and we’re hoping we give our best every time we play.”

Meanwhile, Rider’s NCAA drought reaches 20 years since it appeared in 1994 as champion of the Northeast Conference.

“We were just trying to stay headstrong and stay together through all of the adversity,” Stewart said. “It’s tough. They hit a lot of shots — a lot of 3s. When a team is hitting like that, there’s nothing you can do except keep playing and trying to come back.”


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