Rider Energized By Newcomers, New Lineup

After losing four in a row as part of the Orland Classic event, Rider is back on the right track.

(photo courtesy: Rider Athletics)
Senior Matt Lopez (center) has provided the Broncs offense with a presence they have not had in a while. (photo courtesy: Rider Athletics)

Adding Lehigh graduate transfer Anthony D’Orazio into the starting lineup in place of  junior Zedric Sadler is part of the reason why. In both of the Broncs’ games with the new lineup, they have averaged better than a point per possession on offense, scoring a season-high 80 in their win Sunday over Siena.

“We just need to get more consistency out of everybody,” head coach Kevin Baggett said. “Early on it was the guards that were playing well and the bigs weren’t, now we have the bigs playing well and the guards weren’t, so we just need consistency across the board.”

One of the biggest additions, especially from a size perspective, has been Utah State transfer Matt Lopez. The 7′ senior has given the Broncs a true post presence for the first time since the team had Jason Thompson — a future NBA lottery pick — on their roster.

“Matt has brought a post presence that we really haven’t had here,” Baggett said. “[Lopez] is actually a legitimate five that puts a lot of pressure on the defense to figure out whether or not those guys are going to try and guard him one-on-one, or if they are going to try and double him, or if they’re going to try and dig on him.”

“He’s a really good passer, he’s really given us that presence that we haven’t had in a while, since I would say Jason Thompson. Certainly glad to be able to have a guy down there that you can throw it to, and more often than not, good things happen.”

Lopez is averaging 10.9 ppg, good for second on the team, and is tied for the team lead in rebounding with 4.8 rpg. Newcomer and VCU transfer Teddy Okereafor leads the team with 11.3 ppg, but his presence has altered the way sophomore Jimmie Taylor plays in the offense.

“I think he’s still trying to get comfortable in this new offense,” Baggett said adding that last season they depended on dribble drive more than they want to this season. “I trust that Jimmie will get going, we just have to get him better in some of the areas he has to get better on. Those are the discussions that we had [Monday] and Jimmie is always in the gym working on his game. We just have to get him to be more of a complete player.”

So far Taylor has averaged 8.2 ppg in nine starts after averaging 12.1 ppg during his freshman season, when he primarily handled the ball.

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.

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