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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

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rider, Monmouth atop MAAC standings for early showdown

Matt Lopez leads Rider in scoring and rebounding. (Gregg Slaboda Photo)

Lawrenceville >> With a quarter of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule played, Rider and Monmouth are in a position most didn’t expect them to be.

That would be at the top of the standings.

All of a sudden Monday night’s clash at Alumni Gymnasium (7 p.m, 107.7 FM The Bronc), while still relatively early in the league fixtures, has a big-game feel.

“I think it’s a rivalry that’s coming back,” Rider coach Kevin Baggett said. “I think King (Rice) has those guys really playing well. They’re kind of similar to us in a lot of ways ... they have depth, they have talent and they make it hard on teams to score.”

The two schools are separated by about 45 miles and used to be rivals in the Northeast Conference before Rider joined the MAAC in 1997.

Now that they’re in the same league again, they renew pleasantries twice a season.

The Broncs won all three meetings last year, including an opening-round game in the conference tournament.
Rider has won nine straight and 11 of the last 12 in the series.

“We’ve beaten them the last couple times,” Baggett said, “so I know that’ll be part of their (battle) cry as well.”

The Broncs (10-6, 4-1) and Hawks (7-8, 4-1) are tied for first with preseason favorite Iona after five rounds of league games. Monmouth beat the Gaels, while Rider lost in New Rochelle.

But the Broncs are the hottest team in the conference, having just polished off a sixth-consecutive victory. They haven’t won seven in a row since 2007-08 when they went on a 10-game run.

The Hawks are coming off a four-point loss to Quinnipiac after starting 4-0 in the league.

Deon Jones and Justin Robinson both average over 11 points per game to pace the Monmouth attack.

Rider has three players averaging in double figures — Matt Lopez, Jimmie Taylor and Teddy Okereafor — while a fourth, Zedric Sadler, sits at 9.8.

With this in-state showdown being the lone game on the schedule Monday night, the winner will temporarily have sole possession of first place.

“When I first got here, they told me Monmouth was a rivalry,” said Taylor, who is from Branford, Florida. “I can’t really get the hype of it yet because I’m not from around here, but I know when we play them, they play hard. I can tell they come at us aggressive, so we have to do the same thing.”

It’s unlikely Taylor or anyone of his teammates will forget what’s at stake.

“We’ll keep reminding them,” Baggett said.

Big Man on Campus

Lopez, a 7-foot senior, continues to impress in his only year of eligibility.

He scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds in the win over Saint Peter’s.

“He’s finishing well inside,” SPU coach John Dunne said. “When you crowd him or double him inside and he’s not bothered, he’s actually a good and willing passer out of there. He’s a good get for them this year and he definitely raises their level of offensive efficiency.”

Lopez leads the Broncs in scoring (11.3 points) and rebounding (6.3).

The Right Mix

Baggett has talked repeatedly about team chemistry and believes its a key factor in the team’s six-game winning streak.

“Guys are getting on one another telling them exactly what they need to do if they make a mistake, ‘hey, you need to be here or be there,’ and that’s the sign of a team with chemistry when guys let one another know what’s going on out there whether good or bad,” Baggett said. “It’s a neat group. I really enjoy being around them. These guys are doing the work. I’m just enjoying the ride.”


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