For all of Rider’s success throughout the season, even winning two of their final three without first team All-MAAC center Matt Lopez, the Broncs could not overcome a cold shooting night against Saint Peter’s.
“I can’t tell you if anybody on our team played well today,” Rider head coach Kevin Baggett said. “We just never got off to a good start.”
Baggett, who won the MAAC Coach of the Year award on Friday night, saw his team struggle out of the gate in almost every facet. Worst of all he saw his team’s offense, which scored a shade over a point per possession in conference play, disappear in the first half.
“I think they were forcing us into bad shots,” junior Teddy Okereafor, who had 8 points on 3-13 shooting, said. “We were taking bad shots because we weren’t ready to shoot it on the perimeter, didn’t make a lot of three’s and kind of fell in love with shooting jump shots.”
The Broncs converted four of their 20 three-point attempts on the night, for a team that usually converts 33% of their beyond the arc attempts. Compound that converting just 13 of 23 free throws and allowing Desi Washington to convert 15 free throws, proved to be too much for Rider.
“I mean I thought it would haunt us at some point,” Baggett said of their poor percentage from the line. “All year long we’ve managed to squeak it out here and there, but you can’t keep playing on the edge and not being able to make free throws.”
“I mean they’re free, guys have to step up and make them. I have no answer for why guys can’t make free throws, I really can’t, it’s frustrating I know that.”
The Broncs closed the lead with a 12-1 run to open the second half, but the Peacocks responded with an 8-1 to keep them at arms length to close their MAAC tournament run prematurely.
“It’s not a good feeling at all, I mean we wanted this win, but we just didn’t come out and play like we should have,” sophomore Jimmie Taylor, who shared a team-high 10 points with Khalil Alford, said. “I mean, you learn from it and you move on.”
Rider’s trials as the second seed under Baggett have been a disappointment, exiting in the quarterfinal round each time to the seventh seed. This loss will sting, but it does not take away from the Broncs totaling 21 victories and a likely postseason berth should they choose to accept an invite.
“These guys all year long have done everything we’ve asked them to do,” Baggett said. “This was one of those days, again the second time for me, that we just didn’t play well being the two seed.”
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.