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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Back on the attack, Rider's Taylor finding scoring touch

Jimmie Taylor had a career high 25 in the win over Wagner. (John Blaine photo)

It’s no secret that Rider needs Jimmie Taylor to show up on a consistent basis to challenge at the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

In the Broncs’ final game of 2014, Taylor showed he’s finding his scoring form at the perfect time.

The sophomore guard pumped in a career-high 25 points in the victory over Wagner — Rider’s third straight and fifth in its last six contests.

Something both Taylor and head coach Kevin Baggett attributed to his attack-first mentality.

“That’s something that we’ve been constantly preaching in practice,” Baggett said. “Guys going downhill, getting to the basket a little more, getting to the free throw line. I’m happy to see that part of Jimmie, being more aggressive than he was early on.”

In fact, it was a bit of an indifferent start for Taylor, who was coming off an all-rookie selection in the league, when he managed double figures in just five of the Broncs’ first 12 games.

Much of that can be traced to learning a new role offensively.

Baggett switched from a drive-and-kick offense dominated by guards to one predicated on throwing the ball inside to 7-foot center Matt Lopez. With addition of Teddy Okereafor, it also met Taylor had to move and get open without the ball in his hands.

“We’re trying to have a balanced attack,” Taylor said. “We have a lot of guys who can score. We don’t want to have selfish guys, knowing that each guy can score. Instead, we try and distribute to everybody.”

Baggett, though, made an adjustment to put the ball back in Taylor’s hands when Okereafor wasn’t on the floor and push Zedric Sadler out to the wing. The move paid off with Taylor scoring 25 points and Sadler adding 17, including 5 of 7 from long range.

“(Jimmie’s) still really good when the ball is in his hands, especially in the open court,” Baggett said. “He needed to understand the offense without the ball.”

Taylor finished 8 of 14 from the floor and also got to the foul line 12 times.

“My teammates were supporting me,” said Taylor, who raised his scoring average to 10.2 points per game. “They were telling me to keep going, keep attacking. Basically, this is my teammates. They wanted me to keep attacking, so I give this to them.”

“He’s getting back to being the old Jimmie,” said Baggett, who at one point last season sent a text message telling Taylor he was going to be mad if he didn’t take at least 10 shots per game. “He’s being aggressive.”

Rotation game

Baggett has said repeatedly this is the deepest the Broncs have been since he took over as head coach, so it will be interesting to see that put to the test in the coming weeks now that sophomore forward Kahlil Thomas is sidelined for four weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot.

Baggett played 10 players against Wagner, and got nine of them double-digit minutes.

“If we can get nine guys in there knowing we have a balanced rotation with guys getting in and out and giving other guys a blow, that’s kind of where I want to stay,” Baggett said. “If I can get 10, I’d love too. I just like the way everybody is rooting for one another and the way we’re playing right now.”

Freshman guard Anthony Durham his first extended run with 11 minutes.
With Thomas out, Baggett has shifted Khalil Alford to the four along with Shawn Valentine and Xavier Lundy, who started in Thomas’ place, for depth. That leaves a rotation spot open for a guard.

“He’s a freshman and we kind of hand to wean him along a little bit,” Baggett said. “He had to learn and understand our concepts, especially on the defensive end. He’s certainly going to be good for us going forward.

Running hot and cold 

Through the first 13 games, Okereafor has been all or nothing depending on where the game is played.

Rider has played four times at Alumni Gymnasium and nine times away from home.

Here are his home/road splits:

Home games >> 21 ppg/63.6 percent FGs (28 for 44)/11 threes
Road/Neutral Games >> 7.1 ppg/27.3 percent FGs (23 for 84), 8 threes

Since the MAAC tournament is on a mostly-neutral floor in Albany, Okereafor needs to get better away from Alumni Gym’s cozy confines.

Speaking of the MAAC

Conference play resumes for the Broncs (7-6, 1-1) on Friday when they travel to the Hudson Valley to face Marist (1-11, 0-2).


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