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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Sunday / May 27.
  • Thompson, Rider Gear Up for Rutgers

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    A year ago, Ryan Thompson scored 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lift Rider to a 61-57 victory over Rutgers at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

    His older brother, Jason, managed just 12 points and 7 rebounds because of foul trouble.

    With Jason in the NBA, Ryan is now the man for the Broncs and they are looking for that same kind of result when Rider (3-1) hosts Rutgers (4-2) on Wednesday night at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton. It is Rider’s only game against a Big East opponent all season.

    “We certainly view it as an opportunity,” Rider coach Tommy Dempsey said by phone Tuesday. “Anytime you get a chance to play against a Big East opponent, especially at home. It’s kind of a neutral-site game, but it’s more of a home game for us than it is for them.”

    The two teams share one common opponent this year, with Rider winning at Lehigh of the Patriot League, 69-68, despite missing its starting backcourt because of injuries. Rutgers lost to that same team 76-71 at the RAC.

    Rider has had to overcome knee injuries to sophomore point guard Justin Robinson, who came back last week, and freshman center Jermaine Jackson, who played eight minutes on Saturday. Starting off guard Harris Mansell also missed time with an injury. The team played Lehigh without its starting backcourt and finally practiced as a complete unit on Monday.

    “Every game takes on a life of its own with different matchups,” Dempsey said of the Lehigh results. “We don’t really lookat that much. We try to look at our game against them last year. They’ve added some pieces, we’ve added some pieces. We obviously don’t have Jason anymore, so we’re significantly different in that regard.”

    The Broncs feature three players in double-figure scoring, led by Thompson at 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds. Mansell averages 13.3 points and freshman guard Novar Gadson 11.0.

    Thompson was named MAAC Player of the Week last week and Gadson was named Rookie of the Week. Thompson has scored 25 points in each of his last two games, and added nine rebounds, three steals and two assists in a win over Cal State Northridge. Gadson added 10 points, seven boards, two blocks and two steals in that game.

    “[Thompson] has been playing great,” Dempsey said. “The first couple of games he didn’t get off to a great start. He was good but not great. Just trying to figure what out his identity is with this team. The last couples games he’s been much more assertive and has played like a first-team all-league player. He just has never really had to be the man, so that’s an adjustment for him.”

    In the first game of the year, Thompson took just 11 shots. In the second against Lehigh, he took just eight.

    “That’s just not enough for your best player,” Thompson said. He’s taken 19 and 17 shots, scoring 25 points, in the games against Lafayette and Cal State Northridge.

    “He’s so unselfish,” Dempsey said. “He doesn’t have a true scorer’s mentality so he’s much more of a complete player. Loves to pass and rebound. Those things are great but he has to have that little bit of scorer’s edge for us and the last couple games he’s had that.”

    As for Rutgers, Rider doesn’t see teams with that much size in their league. Starting center Hamady N’Diaye is 6-foot-10 and starting power forward Greg Echenique is 6-9. Freshman guard Mike Rosario is Rutgers’ only double-digit scorer at 16.2 ppg. Echenique is averaging 9.2 points and 10.0 rebounds.

    “They’re big, they’re physical and they’re very good defensively,” Dempsey said. “We want to score. We want to get up and down the court. Last year in the game up at Rutgers, they were very difficult for us to score on. Just a little bit of a different size element than we normally deal with on a regular basis.

    “Our biggest challenge [Wednesday] night will be scoring in the halfcourt offense and rebounding the ball. If we can do those two things well, we’ll have a good chance.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.