Rider’s record might’ve said 3-11 when its game against Manhattan started, but the only numbers that really mattered were 0-2, as in the Broncs’ record in the MAAC.
The turn of the calendar to 2012 means the return of conference play and having most of those losses left behind in 2011. Rider looked like an unburdened team as it rolled to a 17-point halftime lead and held on for an 88-77 victory over Manhattan at Draddy Gymnasium on Monday night.
“This is a level of basketball where non-conference means nothing,” said Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello. “What matters is what you do in the conference. We go around the whole non-conference and get beat up and get ready for conference play. They’re the epitome of that and they’re ready to play.”
Rider spent most of the past two months having people wonder where the team picked to challenge for the MAAC title had gone. The Broncs lost to Pittsburgh, Drexel, La Salle, Florida, Princeton, Stony Brook and others early in the season. But the win pushed the Broncs’ conference record to 1-2 and helped Rider avoid being swept, even after losing 71-55 to the Jaspers in Lawrenceville earlier this season.
“It’s a new season in the sense this is all league play we’re in,” said Novar Gadson, who led Rider with 21 points. “Manhattan and Marist beat us earlier in the season and we don’t get to swept. For us not to get swept we have to come out aggressive and play with confidence.”
Rider couldn’t miss during the first half, shooting 17-28 from the field during the first half and scoring 52 points, that tied Syracuse for the most points scored in an opening half against Manhattan (9-6, 2-1) this season.
Most of the open looks were handed to the Broncs by slow rotations after Rider broke the press. Playing Manhattan for the second time this season seemed to give players like Jonathan Thompson more conviction against the Jaspers’ traps. While Rider turned the ball over 22 times, it also had 23 assists, led by Thompson’s seven.
Daniel Stewart scored 15 and Brandon Penn scored 12 and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Broncs. Rider shot 12-22 from three as a team and also out scored Manhattan 32-20 in the paint.
“We lost the game at the three-point line,” Masiello said. “They shot 54 percent from three, we shot 48. You cannot let a team like that shoot that percentage from the three.”
The Jaspers struggled with foul trouble during a good part of the opening 20 minutes. George Beamon picked up his second foul with 12:28 remaining in the half and sat the rest of the way. He played 26 minutes overall and scored 13 points on 4-12 shooting. The Jaspers’ hot hand was Kidani Brutus. He shot 5-8 from three and scored 19 points.
After the difficult first half, Manhattan closed to within seven points at 84-77 with 1:30 remaining in the game on Liam McCabe-Moran’s three pointer, but with a chance to get the lead down to five Emmy Andujar couldn’t get his lay up to go down and Rider salted the game away at the free throw line. As a team Manhattan shot just 12-39 (30.8%) on twos.