Men's College Basketball
Rider University 72, Niagara University 69
LAWRENCEVILLE- Rider wins, first place Niagara Falls.
The Broncs barreled over Niagara in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game Thursday evening.
"Another hard-fought battle by our guys," said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. "They did a great job. I think we forced Niagara to play the style of ball that I wanted to play. When we don't score in the 60s we struggle."
Rider is now 13-4 this season when the Broncs score 60 or more points.
"All the credit goes to Rider," said Niagara 15-year head coach Joe Mihalich, whose 260 career wins is the most of any MAAC coach. "As they say in the lock room, 'they punked us' tonight. They were tougher than us, won almost every 50-50 ball, and deserved to win."
Junior Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech) scored 23 points, tying his career-high, and grabbed seven rebounds. "We know Niagara is very talented," Myles said. "They have a lot of firepower."
"Anthony had a big night," Baggett said. "Every time he shot it I thought it was going in."
Myles was four for seven from three-point range, eight for 13 overall from the field.
Rider senior Jonathon Thompson (Orlando, Fla./Jones) added 18 points, making four of six foul shots in the final 24 seconds to preserve the victory. "Jon is the heart and soul of this team," Baggett said. "I've said that since he's been here."
Thompson was eight for 11 from the foul line for the game and had three assists and two blocked shots. "He's the guy who is going to make something happen," Baggett added.
Rider junior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) compiled 14 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth 'double-double' of the season and the 12th of his career. "Danny is the guy who cleans up the glass for us more often than not," Baggett said of his junior forward, who now has 621 career rebounds, moving up to 18th on the Rider career list. "I'm not surprised he had another 'double-double'. He's having a great year. He started the game hitting some outside shots and then used his quickness to beat their big men inside."
"It really helps me when I'm able to hit some outside shots, because then they guard me and I can go past them," Stewart explained. "The coaches have been telling me for years to work on my jump shot. Now I have the confidence in it to shoot it more."
With the win Rider (13-12, 8-5 MAAC) has now won seven of its last 10 games.
Niagara (14-10, 10-3 MAAC) has not won in Rider's Alumni Gym since the 2006-07 season. Rider has now won six of the last seven games with Niagara and eight of the last 11.
Rider out-scored Niagara 13-4 to start the second half, five points by Stewart, to take a 39-34 lead with 15:19 left to play.
Niagara led 30-26 at the half.
Myles scored nine of Rider's first 13 points, with three dunks and a three-point field goal. "Anthony started out with a big dunk that got him going right away," Baggett said.
Niagara sophomore guard Ameen Tanksley, who averages 10.9 points per game, scored a career-high 29 points. Tanksley had seven of Niagara's first 12 points and 11 of the first 25 Purple Eagle points.
When Niagara visited Rider last year the Broncs came back from a 17-point second half deficit to win 74-73 on Super Bowl Sunday.
Niagara sophomore guard Juan'ya Green, who is adding 16.7 points per game, was held scoreless the first half and finished with seven points, finishing one for 16 from the field. "I didn't realize he was just one for 16 but he does a lot of other things that helps his team," Baggett said.
Green finished with five assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes of action. "Our players always seem to do a good job focusing on the other team's best players," Baggett added.
Iona (8-5 MAAC) lost to Marist (3-10 MAAC) Thursday night, and Manhattan (6-7) defeated Canisius (8-5). "Anybody can win this league," Baggett said. "You can't take anybody for granted in this league. I hate looking at the schedule 'cause the next game is Iona."
On Saturday Rider travels to snowy New Rochelle, NY to take on Iona in a 7pm game broadcast on ESPN3.