Men's College Basketball
Rider University 72, Saint Peter's College 66
JERSEY CITY- In popular culture it is said that the 'pearly gates' or the gateway to Heaven is guarded by Saint Peter. Rider appears to be heading toward a better afterlife, or postseason, with a victory over Saint Peter's Monday night.
Senior Ryan Thompson (Mt. Laurel, N.J./Lenape) scored 21 points, 18 in the second half, to lead Rider to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory. Junior Mike Ringgold (Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic) added 17 points, 15 in the second half.
"It was a great second half by Ryan and Mike," said Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey. "I think it was a good character win for our team. It seems every time we get it going we get knocked down a peg and then we find a way to dig down and keep the season alive. Tonight was one of those nights. It would have been tough to come up here and get beat."
The victory keeps Rider (15-13, 8-8 MAAC) tied with Niagara for fifth place, behind Saint Peter's (14-11, 9-6 MAAC). The Broncs have won five of their last seven games. "We're hitting our stride," Dempsey said.
Holding a 54-49 lead, Rider out-scored SPC 7-3, all seven points by Thompson, to take a 61-52 lead with 7:35 left to play. "I just take what the defense gives me," Thompson said.
Rider out-scored SPC 8-4 to start the second half, six points by Ringgold, to take a 39-30 lead. "You can't guard Mike one on one," Dempsey said. "Mike is doing a much better job of passing the ball when he is doubled."
"After a while you get used to being double-teamed," Ringgold said. "The more you see it the better you are at handling it. Our guards were shooting the ball so well they couldn't really double me in the second half."
Rider shot 70.8 percent (17 for 24) in the second half, 58 percent for the game.
"Coach always tells us to start inside out," Thompson said. "That is going to get us open shots. Mike was going to work and I told him to keep going. Not many people can guard him in the post. Once they start doubling it opens everything."
Trailing 15-10, Rider went on a 16-4 run, seven points by junior Jhamar Youngblood (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick's), to take a 26-19 lead with 3:00 left in the first half, and Rider led 31-26 at the half despite being out-rebounded 23-15.
For the game, SPC out-rebounded Rider 36-28. "They are a good team and are playing well," Dempsey said of the Peacocks. "They are very committed to boxing out and playing defense."
Trailing 8-4, Saint Peter's out-scored Rider 11-2, four points by Darius Conley, to take a 15-10 lead mid-way through the first half. Conley finished with eight points.
Junior Justin Robinson (London, England/Blair Academy) added 11 points and tied his career high with eight assists. "Justin really shared the ball well," Dempsey said. "He has been carrying us with his shooting and tonight he really helped run our team well. With Justin and Ryan it is a bit of a tag-team effort. Justin is playing a bit more of the traditional point guard than Ryan right now, but really it is just two good guards playing well together."
The Preseason Player of the Year, Thompson has compiled 140 points in his last six games and was named the MAAC Player of the Week Monday for the second time in three weeks.
Thompson moves into fifth place on Rider's all-time scoring list with 1,771 points. Rider Hall of Famer Mario Porter is fourth with 1,782.
The game was televised on MAAC TV. Rider is now 3-1 on television this year and hosts ESPNU and Siena February 26. Rider won twice on MAAC TV last year and the Broncs were 7-3 on national television in 2008.
Rider has not played in the Yanitelli Center since 2007. The last two seasons Rider defeated Saint Peter's at the Prudential Center in Newark.
With the win, Rider has now defeated Saint Peter's seven of the last nine meetings.
Saint Peter's defeated Rider 77-66 on January 15 in Lawrenceville.
SPC head coach John Dunne missed the game Monday due to the flu. Assistant coach John Morton, a former player at Seton Hall, served as acting head coach.
Rider takes a break from conference play to take part in the ESPN BracketBuster weekend. The Broncs travel to Hofstra for a 4pm game Saturday.
"We're still going to be a tough team to beat when all is said and done," Dempsey said. "As long as we keep our momentum moving forward, keep playing good basketball. We're tested. We've won in the (MAAC) tournament. I feel when the lights shine brightly in Albany in a few weeks I'm pretty sure these guys will be ready."
The Broncs are ready for a rewarding afterlife, or postseason.