Men's College Basketball
Rider University 79, Robert Morris University 54
LAWRENCEVILLE- What is it with Rider debuts?
When the Broncs joined the Northeast Conference in 1992-93, they won their first conference basketball game by an NEC record 38-point margin. When Rider joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 1997-98, the Broncs won the men's Commissioner's Cup.
On Friday night, in his head coaching debut, Kevin Baggett led the Broncs to victory over Robert Morris, a team that returned its top five players from the squad that defeated Rider by 26 points just one year ago.
Rider junior Nurideen Lindsey (Philadelphia, PA/Overbrook), a transfer making his Rider debut, compiled 26 points and five assists to lead Rider to victory.
"Nuri did a great job getting to the basket and getting other guys involved," Baggett said.
"I was more excited than nervous," said Lindsey, who started the first nine games of the 2011-12 season for St. John's before transferring to Rider for the spring semester. "I have a great opportunity here with a great coach and great teammates. Especially at home. Our fans show us unbelievable support."
The season opener was a sellout in Alumni Gymnasium, the Broncs' Zoo.
The 54 points allowed is less than any game Rider played last year. "I am very happy about us forcing 17 turnovers and holding them to 25 percent shooting," Baggett said. "That's what I'm happy about, defending on that end. If we can defend we'll give ourselves a chance to win every night."
Holding a 44-30 lead, Rider (1-0) went on a 13-4 run, six points by freshman Zedric Sadler (Detroit, Mich/Cody), to take a 57-34 lead with 10:25 left to play.
Trailing 8-6, Rider out-scored Robert Morris (0-1) 15-4, nine points by Lindsey, to take a 21-12 lead with 9:49 left in the first half and the Broncs led 40-27 at the half. "I just wanted to come out and be aggressive," Lindsey said. "That is what Coach asked of me before the game."
Also for Rider, junior Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech) and junior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) each added 11 points and senior Jonathon Thompson (Orlando, Fla./Jones) added 10. "Anthony played a very good game," Baggett said.
"We have a lot of guys who can score," Lindsey said. "I don't think I have to score a lot for us to be successful. On any given night Anthony or Jonathon can put up 25."
Rider out-rebounded RMU 37-32 with sophomore Junior Fortunat (Montreal, Quebec/Roman Catholic) grabbing nine boards, tying his career high.
RMU defeated Rider 83-57 in Moon Township last year. "Some of us watched last year's game today," Myles said. "We saw that our defense was not where it needed to be last year so that was an emphasis tonight, and it will be all year."
Rider won eight of the 10 meetings with RMU when the two were Northeast Conference rivals in the mid-1990s.
"Robert Morris is good," Baggett said. "They are going to win a lot of games."
RMU reached the NEC Title game the last four years, making two trips to the NCAAs and two to the NIT.
The Broncs made 17 of 20 foul shots and shot over 50 percent from the field (.509).
Rider hosts Stony Brook on national television at 6am on November 13 as part of the ESPN Tip Off Marathon. "We have a long way to go, we still need to get better," Baggett said. "We made some mistakes, but we played hard."
Baggett is just the fourth (of 13) Rider head coach to win his debut. The first was Clair Bee. That's not bad company.
Another successful Rider debut. Let's hope first impressions are lasting ones.