Rider 67, Iona 62
Men's College Basketball
Rider University 67, Iona College 62
LAWRENCEVILLE- Albert Einstein once said "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
When opportunity knocks, however, you still have to get up and answer the door.
For the second straight game, Pereira answered the door. Making his second collegiate start and second in a row, junior Tommy Pereira (Nottingham, England/Canarias Basketball Academy) scored a team-high 14 points, making four three-pointers, and grabbed five rebounds to lead Rider to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference win over Iona Sunday afternoon.
"I didn't know if I was starting again, didn't know if Nuri would be back," Pereira said in his British accent. "Coach called on me again. I'm a shooter. Today I did my thing."
"Tommy's been stepping up," said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. On Thursday Pereira scored a career-high 17 points, as the Brit sharp-shooter made five of nine three-pointers, many in crucial times. "If you give Tommy a look he's going to knock it down," Baggett said. "He was able to get a couple looks at key times and he hit some big shots."
"My teammates found me in some good spots again today," Pereira said, "and I was able to knock them down."
The win was the fifth in a row for the Broncs (11-9, 6-2 MAAC), who find themselves in second place in the MAAC. In the five-game streak were wins over both the 2012 MAAC Tournament Champion (Loyola) and the 2012 MAAC Regular Season Champion (Iona).
"This team is unbelievable," Baggett said. "Just a resilient group. Anthony's free throw follow up is a perfect example."
Junior Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech) tipped in his own missed free throw with 16 seconds remaining to give Rider a 65-60 lead. "It wasn't something I planed or even thought about," Myles said of the play. "It just happened. When I saw it wasn't going to fall I knew I had to go get it."
Myles finished with 12 points and four rebounds. "Anthony has matured physically and mentally and he works on his game," Baggett said. "He'll do whatever it takes to win."
The Broncs are 6-2 in the MAAC for the first time since the 2007-08 season when Rider began MAAC play 11-2. In 2010-11 Rider began MAAC play 7-3 and was 9-4.
"If we continue to defend we can be a contender in this league," Baggett said, "but it's a long season. There are highs and lows. We're on a five game winning streak, which is great, but it wasn't that long ago we were on a five game streak going the other way. You just have to appreciate them when you win them because it is hard to win."
Rider senior Jonathon Thompson (Orlando, Fla./Jones) made two foul shots for the final score and finished with 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Thompson's foul shot with 3:10 remaining gave Rider a 60-59 lead and his lay-up with 1:00 left gave Rider a 63-60 lead.
Celebrating his 21st birthday, junior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) compiled 13 points and 10 rebounds. "I got everything I wanted for my birthday," said Stewart, "a win in front of my family and friends. It was a tough game, but we're playing with confidence right now."
The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for Iona (12-7, 6-2 MAAC). Iona out-scored Rider 7-0 to take a 56-50 lead mid-way through the second half.
Rider used a 21-5 run over the final seven minutes of the first half, six points each by Pereira, Thompson and Stewart, to take a 35-30 lead at the half.
The game featured 10 lead changes and nine ties. "It was a hard-fought game," Baggett said. "I knew it was going to be a good game. I told our guys I really felt and believed we could win this game."
For Iona, sophomore forward David Laury compiled 10 points and 17 rebounds, while senior guard Lamont Jones scored 20 points and junior guard Sean Armand added 15 points.
"We know how many weapons they have on their team," Baggett said, "so we wanted to keep the score low. We certainly did not want to get into a track meet with them. They are very good."
Rider freshman Zedric Sadler (Detroit, Mich/Cody) added eight points, five rebounds and three assists off the bench. "Zedric's a tough-minded kid from Detroit who has brought this team some toughness," Baggett said.
Rider freshman Shawn Valentine (Sicklerville, NJ/Phelps) added five points and a career-high nine rebounds.
Trailing 11-9, Iona out-scored Rider 16-3, nine points by Armand, to take a 25-14 lead with 7:11 left in the first half.
This was the 50th meeting between Rider and Iona since the series began in 1949-50 with Rider winning 23, including eight of the last 15.
Rider is 14-17 vs. Iona in MAAC regular season play.
This coming weekend Canisius (Friday) and Manhattan (Sunday) come knocking on Rider's door for a pair of MAAC games. "We'll enjoy this one and we'll get back to being focused on Canisius," Baggett said.