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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, November 22, 2014

Okereafor's big night lifts Rider past Lehigh in home opener

LAWRENCEVILLE >> Teddy Okereafor noticed that Lehigh players were going underneath the ball screens, leaving him open for 3-point shots. So he did what coach Kevin Baggett encourages him to do.

He pulled the trigger.

Okereafor scored 18 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, including 10 in the final 3:55 and Rider held off Lehigh, 78-74, on Friday night at Alumni Gymnasium in its home opener.

“Just staying aggressive throughout the whole game,” Okereafor said of his success. “I just do what the team needs by taking what the defense gives me.”

Through three games, Okereafor has been the Broncs’ best player.

He sat out last season after transferring from VCU and the early returns show Shaka Smart’s loss is Rider’s gain.

“He brings great leadership,” sophomore guard Jimmie Taylor said. “He’s very smart and he knows the game of basketball, especially with his experience. I learn from him. He’s older than me and teaches me stuff at practice that carries over to the game.”

Okereafor finished 8-for-12 from the field, including 5-for-9 on 3-point tries. He made three of his 3s in the final 2:13 of the first half, giving Rider a six-point cushion at intermission.

He also went 8 of 10 from the free-throw line, cementing the Broncs’ second victory by making all eight of his attempts in the final four minutes.

“That’s an awesome night,” Baggett said. “I know he has it in him. Any given night we have different guys stepping up. Tonight was Teddy’s night. He took charge when we needed him to take charge.”

Lehigh coach Brett Reed also tipped his cap to Rider’s latest player from England.

“We knew he was an excellent player,” said Reed, whose Mountain Hawks dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 2006-07. “We knew he had that type of ability to shoot from the perimeter and also drive to the hole pretty hard and use his body and his size from the point-guard position. He was a really tough matchup for us tonight. He ended up making plays when plays needed to be made and then iced the game at the line.”

Taylor and Kahlil Thomas both chipped in 11 points for the Broncs (2-1), who won their second straight after an opening-night loss to Princeton. Two of Rider’s three games have been decided by six points or less.

Rider also improved to 15-4 in its last 19 home openers.

The Broncs led by as many as nine in the second half, but Lehigh rallied back to tie the game until
Xavier Lundy and Okereafor scored on back-to-back trips with 7:07 left.

Rider also got 17 points off 17 Lehigh turnovers.

“It makes me older, I know that,” Baggett joked. “I don’t know about better. I feel like I’m about 50 right now. It certainly makes your team more composed. You learn the different guys who can perform under duress.”

Next up is a trip to Lawrence, Kansas, to face a Jayhawks team with six days off to stew on a 32-point loss against Kentucky.

“For me personally, I grew up watching those teams on TV from back home,” Okereafor said. “It’s almost a dream come true to play those big schools. We’re the underdog, we don’t have anything to lose. We’re also confident in our abilities and we play basketball, too, so it’s not like we’re going out there to get beat.”


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