Men's College Basketball
Rider University 67, Marist College 63
LAWRENCEVILLE- Crunch Time. With three games remaining and just three games separating first place from seventh place, it was time to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
One of the most famous Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde, once sang "You know who your friends are. They're the ones who want to see you go far."
The Broncs are eager to see how far they can go, after winning for the ninth time in the last 13 games with two conference games to go. Rider now heads into the final weekend of the month and of the conference season tied for third place.
"What a game," said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. "We competed, we battled, we grinded it out. Just a great win."
Junior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) came up big at Crunch Time. Stewart compiled 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead Rider to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory over Marist Sunday afternoon on ESPN3.
Stewart's basket with 3:21 remaining gave Rider the lead for good, 60-59. "Danny has been very consistent for us this year," Baggett said.
"It was a drawn up play," Stewart said of the basket that gave Rider the lead for good. "Coach wanted me to attack the rim and that's what I did."
For Stewart it was his fifth 'double-double' of the season and the 12th of his career.
With the score tied at 56-56, Rider (15-13, 10-6 MAAC) out-scored Marist 9-3, four points by senior Jonathon Thompson (Orlando, Fla./Jones), and a three-pointer by freshman Zedric Sadler (Detroit, Mich/Cody), to take a 65-59 lead with 2:00 remaining. That was the 11th and final lead change of the game.
Thompson finished with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. Sadler compiled nine points and two assists in 33 minutes off the bench. "Zedric has been doing it for us all year long," Baggett said of his rookie guard off the bench. "Jon does a great job running this team."
The Broncs tied the score at 52-52 on a drive by senior Dera Nd-Ezuma (Nigeria/Life Center Academy) with 7:17 left and took a 54-52 lead on a jumper by junior Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech) with 6:38 remaining.
Myles finished with 13 points.
Trailing 47-36, Rider went on an 11-2 run, three points each by Sadler and Thompson, to cut the lead to 49-47 with 10:35 left to play. "Jon hit some big shots, Danny got started and Zedric comes in and hits big shots and gets (defensive) stops," Baggett said, explaining the 11-2 run.
Marist (7-20, 4-12 MAAC) scored the first eight points of the second half and out-scored Rider 14-6 over the first six minutes of the second period, five points each by Jay Bowie and Isaiah Morton, to take a 47-36 lead. Bowie finished with 10 points and Morton added nine points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Broncs out-scored Marist 10-4 over the final 4:43 of the first half, five points by Thompson, to cut the Red Fox lead to 33-30 at intermission.
Trailing 20-18, Marist went on an 11-0 run, five points by Morton, to take a 29-20 lead with 4:43 left in the first half.
Sophomore guard Chavaughn Lewis led Marist with 18 points, scoring just two points in the second half. 6'10" junior forward Adam Kemp, who compiled 69 points and 34 rebounds in his previous three games against the top three teams in the MAAC (Niagara, Iona, Loyola), compiled 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The first 13 minutes of action saw eight lead changes and five ties.
With the win, Rider has now beaten Marist 11 of the last 12 meetings.
Marist defeated the second (Loyola) and third (Iona) place teams before falling to the first place (Niagara) team Friday. "Marist is playing well of late, so we knew it wasn't going to be easy," Baggett said. "They don't quit."
Rider defeated Marist 64-58 in Poughkeepsie on February 3. In that game Jonathon Thompson scored 23 points, tying his career-high.
The Broncs host Charleston Southern University in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster game Saturday, February 23, at 5pm in the final home game of the season. Prior to the opening tip seniors Jonathon Thompson and Dera Nd-Ezuma will be honored.
Following the BracketBuster game, the Broncs hope to extend their winning ways on the final road trip of the regular season, playing at first place Niagara and at third place Canisius on the final weekend before the MAAC tournament.
A victorious finish could make the Broncs, not only contenders, but as the Pretenders sang, the "Talk of the Town."