Men's College Basketball
Rider University 61, Charleston Southern University 54
LAWRENCEVILLE- The Grand Finale.
In his final home game, senior Jonathon Thompson (Orlando, Fla./Jones) scored 15 points to lead Rider to victory over Charleston Southern in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster game Saturday evening.
"Jon has been great for us for four years and tonight was no different," Rider head coach Kevin Baggett said of his senior point guard. "He's been a real leader on and off the court and I couldn't be happier for him getting a win in his final home game."
"We try to take what we see first," Thompson said, "what the defense is giving us. Tonight they were giving us the three-ball."
Rider made seven three-point field goals in the game.
On Senior Day, Junior had a day. Sophomore Junior Fortunat (Montreal, Quebec/Roman Catholic) added 12 points and eight rebounds. Fortunat did not miss a shot, going five for five from the field and two for two from the foul line in 23 minutes of action off of the bench.
"Junior gave us great minutes today," Baggett said, "and I'm proud of him."
Rider (16-13, 10-6 MAAC) trailed 44-39 before out-scoring CSU 13-2, eight points by freshman Khalil Alford (Raleigh, NC/Fishburne Military), to take a 52-46 lead with 4:45 remaining. "Khalil has been coming," Baggett said. "I trust Khalil. He can make shots. He gave us some good minutes."
"Once I hit the first one I had the confidence to shoot more," said Alford, who was three for six from the field, making a pair of three-pointers in 13 minutes off the bench.
That was the eighth and final lead change of the game. There were also seven ties in the close, non-conference contest.
"Great game," Baggett said. "I thought our guys battled against a tough Charleston Southern team. They came in playing pretty well, shooting the three-ball."
CSU won the South Division of the Big South with a 92-69 win over VMI Thursday, its 12th win in its last 15 games. CSU came into the game second in the nation with 9.3 three-pointers made per game, but made just four of 19 on Saturday.
"We knew we had to defend the three-point line and our guys did a good job of that," Baggett said.
The Broncs made seven of eight foul shots in the final 52 seconds, four by Thompson, to preserve the victory, Rider's third in a row and 10th in the last 14 games.
Rider went on an 11-0 run to take a 39-36 lead with 11:53 left to play.
Charleston Southern (16-10, 11-3 Big South) used a 12-2 run, four points each by Cedrick Bowen and Paul Gombwer, to take a 25-20 lead with 2:58 left in the first half, and the Bucs led 27-24 at the half.
Bowen finished with 10 points and five rebounds off the bench, while Gombwer finished with seven points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
Arlon Harper led CSU with 13 points, making six of eight foul shots.
Rider junior Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech) scored five points in a 9-2 Rider run that gave the Broncs an 18-13 lead with 7:37 left in the first half. Myles finished with eight points and five rebounds.
Rider is now 4-4 in BracketBusters.
The Broncs begin the home stretch of the 2012-13 regular season in a dead heat.
After 16 MAAC games, Rider is tied for third place and can finish anywhere from first (12-6) to tied for sixth (10-8) and almost anywhere in between.
Rider takes on first place Niagara (12-4) on Thursday and third place Canisius (10-6) on Saturday to bring the regular season to an end.
Meanwhile, second place Loyola (11-5) plays fifth place Iona (9-7) and seventh place Manhattan (8-8), and Manhattan also plays fifth place Fairfield (9-7).
All will be decided this Thursday-Sunday.
The official pairings for the men's and women's MAAC Championships, held in Springfield, Mass. March 7-11, will be announced Sunday evening, March 3.
It looks to be a photo finish.