Men’s College Basketball
Rider University 73, Fairfield University 65
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ— Maximus is a Latin term for largest or greatest.
While the Bronc fans weathered the Winter Storm Maximus to get to Rider’s Alumni Gymnasium Monday evening, Rider’s key player, who isn’t the largest of post players, ranks among some of Rider’s greatest.
Senior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) compiled 18 points and nine rebounds to lead Rider to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference win over Fairfield Monday night.
The 6’7” Stewart now has 824 career rebounds, third most ever at Rider. Stewart also has 1,291 career points, 21st most ever at Rider.
“It certainly helps to be home and have a great crowd behind us tonight with our students,” said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. “And Daniel played well again tonight.”
“Coach stressed during the timeouts that we needed to get the ball inside more,” said Stewart, who made 10 of 13 free throws. Stewart is third in the MAAC and 45th in Division I in free throw shooting (.865).
The win was the third in a row for Rider (12-9, 8-4 MAAC), the second three-game winning streak of the season. The Broncs have now won five of their last seven games. “It’s good to get on a roll,” Baggett said. “It’s the right time of the year. This is when teams start to separate themselves, to see where they are going to be in the standings.”
With the win Rider is now tied for third place in the MAAC. “I see our team starting to come together,” Baggett said. “We’re coming together at the right time.”
Holding a 51-45 lead, Rider out-scored Fairfield 9-3, five points by sophomore Khalil Alford (Raleigh, NC/Fishburne Military), to take a 60-48 lead with 9:55 remaining. Alford finished with eight points in 15 minutes off the bench.
Rider out-scored Fairfield 12-5 to start the second half, five points by Stewart and four by freshman Kahlil Thomas (Parkway, Fla./Blanche Ely), to take a 44-35 lead with 15:55 left to play. Thomas finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Rider led 32-30 at the half against the 11th place Stags. “This league is tough,” Baggett said. “Every night you have to bring it.”
Maximus is also a Marvel Comics villain. That villain role Monday night went to Maurice Barrow, who compiled a game-high 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench. Fairfield’s only senior, Barrow is coming in off the bench to average 12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 29 minutes played per game. Monday night Barrow had 12 points at the half.
Fairfield (4-19, 1-11 MAAC) is starting four sophomores and a freshman.
Rider freshman Jimmie Taylor III (Branford, Fla./Suwannee) compiled 14 points, making all three of his three-point shots. “Jimmie was more aggressive tonight,” Baggett said.
The Broncs made eight of 16 three-point shots. Rider is second in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (.419)
The Broncs made 21 of 30 foul shots. Rider is the best foul shooting team in the MAAC (.739).
Rider out-rebounded Fairfield 35-27 and caused 21 Fairfield turnovers. “We’re getting better defensively,” Baggett said, “which has really helped us.” Rider scored 27 points off of those turnovers. “Anytime you can do that it makes life easier.”
“We’re doing a better job on defense,” Stewart said. “Everybody has bought in.”
Rider and Fairfield have now met 55 times since the series began in 1951-52, with Rider winning 25, including eight of the last 16, but Fairfield had won the last four. “I’m very happy to finally break that losing streak against Fairfield,” Baggett said. “They are always a tough opponent.”
Fairfield eliminated Rider from the last two MAAC Tournaments, and the Stags are 2-1 against Rider in postseason play. Rider is 17-16 against Fairfield in MAAC regular season games.
The Broncs return to Alumni Gym to host Marist on Thursday at 8:30pm, an ESPN3 doubleheader with the Rider women hosting Iona at 6pm.
With a national ESPN3 audience along with a doubleheader, Alumni Gym will again be the place to be, like Circus Maximus.