Broncos buck Saint Peter’s with strong defense
St. Peter’s rode a stingy defense to Albany in hopes of making a run at the MAAC crown.
But it’s offensive inefficiency early in Saturday’s MAAC quarterfinal game prevented that defense from ever making the No. 5 seed Rider Broncos uncomfortable.
Rider, led by 1st Team All–MAAC selection Ryan Thompson, displayed it’s own defensive prowess in the first half on the helpless Peacocks, resulting in Saint Peter’s turnovers and an early 17-3 advantage.
That advantage remained at double digits for most of the contest, and the Broncos survived a late Saint Peter’s storm to move on to the MAAC semifinals with a 69-57 win Saturday afternoon.
Rider, a team that prefers to go up and down the court, settled with Saint Peter’s grind-it-out gameplan and looked content with slowing the pace down.
“We knew it’d be a tough game against Saint Peter’s,” said Rider Head coach Tommy Dempsey. “We are more of a free-flowing team, but if we have to play in the half-court, then we have to find a way to win, and we did that today.”
Rider (17-15) used a full-court trap and an active 2-3 zone defense to fluster the Peacocks early and often. Saint Peter’s (16-14) committed eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes.
The Peacocks’ offensive woes continued throughout the half; they committed 16 turnovers in the first 20 minutes – the team came in averaging 16.2 turnovers a game – and went into the locker room down 32-17. Rider had 20 points off of turnovers in the first stanza.
With its season winding down, Saint Peter’s made a surge to climb back into the contest. Down 40-23, the Peacocks, led by an impressive individual performance from forward Ryan Bacon (24 points, 13 rebounds), woke up and outscored Rider 22-11 to climb with six points at 51-45 with less than six minutes left.
But Saint Peter’s missed free throws when it counted, and Rider received timely baskets and free throws from its leaders to move the Broncs to Sunday’s semifinal contest, where they will face the winner of the Siena-Manhattan quarterfinal game. Overall, the Broncos made 31-of-46 free throws.
“If we get to the free throw like 46 times, we’re going to have a real good chance to win,” Dempsey said.
Four double-digit scorers led Rider to victory. Thompson finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Forward Mike Ringold dominated in the post, scoring 15 points, seven of which game from the free throw line, and grabbing 5 boards.
With the Broncos expected to play the No. 1 seed Saints, Thompson and the other Broncos are excited at the chance to battle the team that has dominated the conference the last three years. Rider lost to Siena in the 2008 MAAC Championship, and Rider’s upperclassmen haven’t forgotten about that loss.
“I would like to play either [Manhattan or Siena] in the next round, but we’d be excited to play Siena,” Thompson said.