Men's College Basketball
Rider University 65, Canisius College 61
Broncs Second Seed in MAAC Tournament
BUFFALO, NY- The Broncs did everything they could, winning the final five games of the regular season, with two of the wins coming on the road against the top two teams in the conference. But to ask the last place team to win on the road against the first place team in the regular season finale was a bit much.
With Rider's victory over Canisius Saturday the Broncs won the battle for second place, but Niagara held on to the top seed with a victory over last place Saint Peter's.
"I'm proud of our guys," said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. "Today seemed like a tournament game already."
Freshman Zedric Sadler (Detroit, Mich/Cody), who missed the last two games due to a violation of team rules, made a three-point field goal with 15 seconds left, and made two foul shots with 1.7 seconds left to give Rider a 65-61 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference win at Canisius Saturday.
"I had an open look and took it," Sadler said. "I shot it with confidence, didn't think twice, just let it go."
"Zed is something special," Baggett said of his rookie guard, "reliable at both ends. He's capable of hitting those shots, but he understands his role as a freshman. His teammates know he's a gamer who can hit big-time shots."
The victory gives the Broncs sole possession of second place and Rider (18-13, 12-6 MAAC) will now be the second seed in the upcoming MAAC Championship Tournament. "We came up here to win two games and that's what we got done," Baggett said.
Canisius (18-12, 11-7 MAAC) led 61-56 with 4:24 left to play and was out-scored 9-0 the rest of the way.
Rider junior Nurideen Lindsey (Philadelphia, PA/Overbrook) scored his 10th and 11th points of the second half with 4:00 left and junior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) made two foul shots with 3:33 left to cut the lead to one, 61-60, setting up Sadler's game-winner.
Stewart picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and played just 14 minutes due to foul trouble, finishing with six points.
In Stewart's place, sophomore Junior Fortunat (Montreal, Quebec/Roman Catholic) came in off the bench to compile a team-high 12 points in 28 minutes. "With Danny getting in foul trouble, Junior stepping up and scoring in the post was a key today."
Rider senior Jonathon Thompson (Orlando, Fla./Jones), playing in his final regular season game, scored with 10:19 left to cut the Canisius lead to 50-49. Thompson finished with 11 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in 37 minutes of work.
Trailing 42-33, Rider out-scored Canisius 21-8, seven points by Lindsay, to take a 54-50 lead with 8:20 left to play. Sadler's basket with 9:28 left gave Rider its first lead of the game, 51-50.
Canisius made three of its first four three-point shots to jump out to a 13-4 lead, and held the lead for over 30 minutes.
For the Golden Griffins, senior guard Isaac Sosa, junior guard Billy Baron and senior guard Harold Washington each scored 14 points. "Zed and Jon Thompson did a great job on their guards," Baggett said. "They didn't allow their guards to get the ball into the post."
"We worked on that in practice yesterday," Thompson said, "trying to take their guards out of their game. They can all shoot the three."
Canisius was seven for 25 from three-point range Saturday. The Golden Griffs came into the game second in the nation in three-pointers made per game, averaging over nine.
Rider out-scored Canisius in the paint 34-20. "We knew if we were going to win today it was going to be won in the paint," Baggett said.
Canisius shot just 36 percent in the second half, as Rider out-scored the Golden Griffs 34-23. "We had to tighten some things up at half time and we came out and did that in the second half," Baggett said. "Just a great defensive effort."
Canisius defeated Rider 67-50 on January 25 at Rider. "Baron runs their offense," Baggett said of the Canisius junior point guard. "We were able to take him out of rhythm today and that was the difference. Zed hit the big shot but what I'm most proud of is his defense of Baron. He gave Baron fits today."
Niagara defeated Saint Peter's 78-61 Saturday to win the regular season title. If Saint Peter's had upset Niagara Rider would be cutting down the nets when the Broncs return to campus as the regular season champions.
Coach Baggett now has 18 wins, second only to Bob Greenwood (20 wins in 1963) and Clair Bee (19 wins in 1929) in victories in their first year as Rider head coaches. "This coaching thing is overrated," Baggett joked. "I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to coach. They make it easy. I'm just going along for the ride. It's about the players."
The official seedings and tournament pairings will be announced Sunday night. Rider will play Saturday at 7:30 pm in the quarterfinals against the winner of the #7 vs. #10 (Saint Peter's) game.
"Whoever we have to play we'll deal with," Baggett said. "This league is tough top to bottom."