Basketball Earns No. 4 Seed in Tournament

Teddy Okereafor and Xavier Lundy combined for 38 points and 17 rebounds as the Rider Broncs outlasted the Hawks in a MAAC game that came down to the wire. 

The contest featured unlikely heroes with Rider playing without leading scorer and rebounder senior Matt Lopez who was lost for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury. 

Okereafor, who scored 21 points while adding eight rebounds, picked up the slack and was joined by Xavier Lundy who notched a career-high 17 points while grabbing nine rebounds.

It was a purple out in the University’s Multipurpose Activity Center when the Hawks fell to the Broncs 63-60. 

“Not very happy at all, I apologize to the fans, our kids decided today was the day they didn’t have to play” said Head Coach King Rice. “Lack of respect for the game today, lack of respect for your fans and it was our seniors who decided today was the day to do it.” 

The three seniors who King Rice said wanted to play “hero basketball” were Max DiLeoAndrew Nicholas and Brice Kofane.

Justin Robinson led the Hawks with 15 points and three assists, but the Hawks, who were tied 25-25 at the half with Rider, could not secure the win.

Both teams struggled from the field in the first half, with the Hawks shooting 32 percent and the Broncs 35 percent. 

Kofane went one for six from the field and picked up three personal fouls to earn himself a spot on the bench for the second half with Coach Rice disappointed in the senior transfers performance.

Rider came out in the second half and went on a 9-0 run in the early going, led by Okereafor and Lundy contributing 14 points in the first 4:19. Rider led this contest by as many as 12 with 10:10 remaining in the game, but the Hawks managed to get the score within 58-56 with 1:59 left.

Robinson had control of the ball trailing by only two points with ten seconds remaining on the clock, while Coach Rice opted not to take one of his two remaining timeouts. Robinson drove the ball and attempted to dish it off the freshman guard Austin Tilghman who was unable to control the dish, and the ball sailed into the crowd. 

“That was my fault, bad pass, bad turnover” said Robinson about the play.

When Coach Rice was asked why he didn’t call a timeout before the turnover he said, “The game was lost way before that, when you don’t come to play, its not about the X’s and O’s.”

In a game that featured seven lead changes and was tied six times, Rider allowed the Hawks to stick around going 17 of 28 from the free throw line in the second half. 

With seven seconds left on the clock the score stood at 62-59 after Okereafor hit one of two free throws. 

After a Hawks timeout head coach Kevin Baggett chose to have Okereafor foul Robinson rather than giving MU a chance to take a three to tie the game. Robinson made one of two putting the score at 62-60.

Nicholas fouled Shawn Valentine with only two seconds showing on the clock. With a chance to make it a two possession game, Valentine missed the first free throw and made the second giving the Broncs a 63-60 lead, leaving the Hawks with hope to tie the game.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, time expired before the could make a comeback.

The Hawks put the tough loss behind them as they looked forward to playing against the Siena Saints on Sunday afternoon.

It was senior night and the regular season finale as Robinson and Jones combined for 38 points to help the Hawks win 63-57.

Robinson finished the game with 16 points and five assists while Jones led all scorers with 22 points and added a career-high 13 rebounds. 

“I was being aggressive, finding open shots and my teammates did a great job of finding me open,” Jones said.

Nicholas scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds while logging a team-high 38 minutes. 

With 22 seconds remaining and the score sitting at 57-55 in favor of the Hawks, the Saints inbounded the ball from the baseline; DiLeo was able to deflect the ball towards Robinson. Robinson then found Jones for a highlight reel alley-oop pass and the fans responded jumping out of their seats.

MU finished the regular season 17-14 overall (13-7 MAAC) and earned the fourth seed for the MAAC Tournament.

The Hawks have already guaranteed themselves a first round bye in the tournament and are going in with the expectation of becoming MAAC Champions, and ultimately earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. 

They are set to square off with No. 5 Canisius on Saturday at 2:30 PM in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC Championship Tournament at the Times Union Center in Albany.