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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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Princeton, Rider tip off college basketball season with local rivalry

For the second consecutive season, Mercer County’s two Division I basketball programs are going to tip off the season against each other.

For only the second time in series history, the game will take place at Rider’s Alumni Gymnasium when Princeton makes the six-mile trip south on Route 206 for a 7 p.m. tip off Friday night.

“I’m happy to finally have them here,” Broncs coach Kevin Baggett said. “Those guys are a really good opponent and they’re well coached. We get a chance to see where we are at this point.”

The only other meeting in Lawrenceville was in 2011, a 72-71 overtime victory for the Tigers capped off by Mack Darrow’s banked in 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Princeton won last season’s contest, 64-58, although Rider had the lead with six minutes remaining.

“They had us in a lot of ways and we were sort of on our backs,” Tigers coach Mitch Henderson said. “I think they’re very good. They were a second-place MAAC team with 21 wins and losing only one significant guy. They presented us a lot of problems a year ago. I think it’s a great opener. It’s a tough place to play.”

This marks just the 15th time the two schools will play despite the short distance between the campuses.

“I like playing local teams,” said Henderson, who also has Saint Peter’s and Fairleigh Dickinson on the schedule. “I’ve made it very public I’d love to get the Rutgers thing going again. That’s a game that’s very important to me.”

Said Baggett: “It is a rivalry, and yet if you’re going to play those guys, I think you play them early before they really get grooved in and get games under their belt.”

Both schools return experienced lineups.

Rider, coming off a 21-12 season and second-place finish in the MAAC, is led by a deep backcourt, including all-league point guard Teddy Okereafor, Jimmie Taylor and Zedric Sadler.

Sadler, the MAAC’s 6th Man of the Year, has been dealing with a hamstring issue, but Baggett said he practiced this week and should be able to play Friday night.

“I do like our guards,” Baggett said. “I like our experience. Those guys are going to have to be the catalysts of this team. They’re going to have to lead us, going to have to carry us. If we’re going to be good, it has to start with those guys first and foremost.”

Meanwhile, Princeton returns all five starters from a 16-14 team, which many believe has the chance to challenge for an Ivy League title.

The Tigers haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since the 2010-11 season when Doug Davis made his famous shot against Harvard.

Since then, the Crimson are the only Ivy to dust off the dancing shoes.

“The big difference from this year to last year is we know everything,” Henderson said. “We know what we are. It’s just about getting the details right.”

The fifth-year coach knows his team can score with players like Spencer Weisz, Hans Brase, Amir Bell and Steven Cook all returning, but he’s looking for them to make strides on defense.

“Who’s going to make sure we’re getting stops defensively?” Henderson said. “Who’s going to wipe out another team’s best players? That’s been a question mark for us.”

You only get one first impression. Time for Mercer County’s two schools to make theirs.


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