Three for eight from the field, just 11 points, Shane Richards will tell you himself, that’s not who he is.
The senior is going through the best scoring season of his career, averaging 17.7 points per game coming into the night. But after a modest 11 points against Iona, and only eight two games ago against Monmouth, Richards had his sights set on coming out aggressive against Rider. The 6-foot-5 guard did just that, scoring 28 points on 8-13 from the floor and a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line.
“It was very important,” Richards said about him having a big performance tonight. “I tried to come out as aggressive as possible. I think I took some bad shots, but I just wanted to get going early, get the team and the momentum going in our favor, and I think I did that for the most part.”
After the Iona game, head coach Steve Masiello challenged Richards to step up and be aggressive. Richards answered the bell, and left his coach satisfied.
“I think Shane Richards put himself on a player of the year status tonight,” Masiello said about Richards’ performance. “I don’t think I’ve ever been on a player as hard as I was after the Iona game, as hard as I was on Shane Richards. It’s a tribute to him and a testimony to his character and what he’s about, the way he responded. A lot of kids would’ve pouted, but Shane responded like I hoped he would.”
Although Richards coasted throughout the entire game, the first half was a defensive grind between the teams. The Broncs and the Jaspers both shot 40 percent from the floor, but the Broncs took a 26-25 lead into the locker room, behind Teddy Okereafor’s 13 first half points.
The Broncs went 10-11 from the free throw line in the half, while the Jaspers went just 6-11.
The second half featured 13 lead changes, in a back and forth battle between the teams. Shane Richards was all the Jaspers had going offensively, as the senior was one of only three Jaspers to finish the night with double-digit scoring numbers.
For the Broncs, it was Okereafor who provided most of the offense. With 3:57 to play and the Broncs down 53-52, Okereafor converted on a 3-point play to give Rider a 55-53 lead. However, it would be the last lead Rider would hold, as the Jaspers came storming back to end the night on a 12-2 run, and win the game 65-57.
“One stop at a time,” Richards said was the message relayed in the huddle after Rider took a 55-53 lead. “We knew the offense would come late. Really we had to take away Teddy because he’s a really good player … we knew we had to take him out especially late in the game because they were going to go to him as their go-to-guy. I think we did a great job just getting stops at the end of the game.”
The Jaspers held the Broncs to just 42 percent shooting, and forced 14 turnovers. For Masiello, the win marks a return to Manhattan’s identity.
“The win is huge, but I was just happy with the way we played,” Masiello said. “I didn’t recognize us at Iona, and you have to give Iona credit for that. I didn’t recognize our team. I’m never okay with losing, but if you come out and you play like we did tonight and you lose on a tough one, you could move on. What you can’t move on from is when you don’t recognize your team this time of year. That’s tough to swallow. But tonight I liked us.”
Zane Waterman and Rich Williams were the other two Jaspers to register double-figures. Waterman finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Williams recorded 11 points and three rebounds. Both RaShawn Stores and Tyler Wilson finished the night with five assists and a steal.
The win improves Manhattan’s record to 6-5 and to fourth in the MAAC standings. The Jaspers head out on the road for their next contest on Sunday against Fairfield, which sits just a game behind them.