Men’s College Basketball
Siena College 69, Rider University 60
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ— On the day Rider celebrated its back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances of the 1990s, it was Siena who won back-to-back games for the first time in a month.
The Saints came marching into Alumni Gymnasium Sunday off of an upset win over preseason favorite Manhattan and defeated Rider for the second time this year.
“Siena is playing with momentum,” said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. “They are coming off a big win and are a confident team.”
With the loss Rider (13-14, 9-9 MAAC) falls below the .500 mark for the first time since November. “We’ve hit rock bottom here,” Baggett said. “We’ve got to find a way out of it.”
Lavon Long compiled 16 points, tying a career high, and nine rebounds to lead Siena to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference win at Rider Sunday afternoon.
“This is a tough one to swallow,” Baggett said.
In the battle for fifth place Siena College (13-16, 9-9 MAAC) scored the final nine points of the game, making seven of eight foul shots.
The top five teams in the MAAC receive a first-round bye in the 11-team Championship Tournament
Holding a 43-42 lead, Siena out-scored Rider 13-6, seven points by Long, to take a 55-49 lead with 6:21 left to play.
Rider came back with an 11-5 run, five points by senior Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech) and four points by freshman Jimmie Taylor III (Branford, Fla./Suwannee), to tie the score at 60-60 with 2:02 left to play. After 18 lead changes that was the ninth and final tie of the game.
Those were the only five points of the game for Myles, who leads Rider with a 16.6 scoring average.
Taylor finished with 15 points. “I don’t expect Jimmie to do any more than what he is doing,” Baggett said. “He’s doing what he needs to do. It is the other guys that are not freshmen who have been here and understand what it takes to win and be successful. Until they play with a little more sense of urgency and desperation, we’ll continue to stay in this rut.”
Rider missed two lay-ups in the final 1:15 of the game and missed two three-point shots in the final 25 seconds. “I’m sure there is a lack of confidence right now when we can’t make lay-ups,” Baggett said.
Rider used a 14-4 run, nine points by Taylor, to take a 26-20 lead and the Broncs led 28-24 at the half.
Also for Rider, senior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) compiled 12 points and eight rebounds. Bronc junior center Junior Fortunat (Montreal, Quebec/Roman Catholic) came in off the bench to compiled eight points and six rebounds in 17 minutes of action.
Siena out-rebounded Rider 46-35.
Ride ranks fourth in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (.410) but shot just .182 (four of 22) from beyond the arc on Sunday. The Broncs rank fourth in the MAAC in overall field goal percentage (.442) but shot just .333 on Sunday (19-57).
With the win the Saints sweep the season series with Rider. Siena defeated Rider 62-47 on January 4 in Albany.
Siena entered the game just 3-12 on the road.
The loss was the fourth home loss in a row for the Broncs. “You’re supposed to defend your home court,” Taylor said.
Rider entered the season with 159 wins in its last 221 home games (.720) but is now just 6-6 at home this year, the worst home record since the 2006 season when Rider was 5-7 at home and finished 8-20 overall.
“It’s hard to win, home or away,” Baggett said. “We’re just not having a good year, home or away.”
A sellout crowd came back to honor the back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams. “This is a tough place to play,” said Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos, “so I couldn’t be prouder of my guys.”
Rider hosts Canisius February 28 on Senior Night before ending the regular season at Iona March 2. “It’s crunch time now,” Taylor said.