Men’s College Basketball
Rider University 71, Monmouth University 60
SPRINGFIELD, MASS.— The Latin phrase omne trium perfectum means ‘everything that comes in threes is perfect’ or ‘every set of three is complete’.
Rider defeated Monmouth Thursday for the third time this season in the first round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship Tournament, held at the MassMutual Center.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. “I thought they did a really good job.”
Senior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti) compiled 25 points and nine rebounds to lead the eighth seeded Broncs (14-16).
“When the playoffs start everyone is 0-0,” Stewart said. “We put our finish of the regular season (1-7) behind us and had the mindset that with a win tonight we’re 1-0 and we move on to the next game.”
Trailing 46-38, Rider went on a 17-2 run, six points by senior Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech), to take a 55-48 lead with 6:52 left to play. That was the fifth and final lead change of the game. Myles, a Third Team All-MAAC selection, finished with 13 points and three assists.
Rider led 58-53 before out-scoring Monmouth 13-4, six points by Stewart, to put the game away.
Stewart, a Second Team All-MAAC selection who is second in the MAAC in free throw percentage and 20th in the nation in free throws made, was 12 of 14 from the foul line.
Rider trailed 25-21 before out-scoring Monmouth (11-21) 12-0 over the final 4:16 of the first half, seven points by Stewart, to take a 33-25 lead at the half.
The start of the second half was all Monmouth, as the Hawks used a 17-3 run to start the final 20 minutes, eight points by Deon Jones, to take a 42-36 lead with 14:04 left to play. “We got down a bit but everybody stayed together,” Baggett said. “We were able to come back.”
“Just staying together was the key,” Stewart said of the comeback. “It might have looked like we got out of whack and were arguing on the court but we were just trying to pick each other up. We needed to be resilient.”
Rider went 7:15 without a field goal. “We hit a little lull there,” Baggett said. “Monmouth, those guys battle.”
Jones finished with 18 points for the ninth seeded Hawks.
Also for Rider, freshman Jimmie Taylor III (Branford, Fla./Suwannee), a candidate for MAAC Rookie of the Year, finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists.
“It was an entire team effort,” Baggett said.
Sophomore Shawn Valentine (Sicklerville, NJ/Phelps) added eight points and three assists off the bench. “I trust Shawn in everything that he does,” Baggett said. “Handling the ball, his defense. He’s a very smart player and I trust him. It doesn’t matter who starts but who finishes and Shawn is one of our guys who finishes.”
Rider defeated Monmouth 89-83 in December and 77-71 in overtime in January.
The win snapped Rider’s four game losing streak. “We made some winning plays today,” Baggett said. “That is what we hadn’t done of late.”
The Rule of Three is the name given to that magical law of nature whereby things that come in threes appear to be just right.
Rider will now attempt to put together a three-game winning streak. It would be Rider’s third three-game winning streak of the season and would put Rider in the MAAC Title Game for the, you guessed it, third time.
Rider will now play the top seed and defending champion, Iona. “Obviously we lost to them twice but we’re excited to play them again,” Baggett said.
Rider lost to Iona 80-77 on February 21 at home and 97-81 in the regular season finale at Iona. “They say it is difficult to win against an opponent three times and I believe that,” Baggett said.
Rider fans are hoping third time’s the charm.
Omne trium perfectum indeed.