It was a game featuring the two top teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference from one year ago.
Both Canisius and Rider tied for the conference regular season crown last season with the Broncs earning the automatic NIT berth after winning the tiebreaker with the Griffs.
With that in mind, both teams knew the importance of their matchup Friday evening at the Koessler Athletic Center.
Canisius jumped out to a 14-point first half lead, taking a 41-30 advantage into the break.
But boy, did things change after both teams returned to the court! Rider decided the press the Griffs in the second half, forcing Canisius into 13 of their 19 turnovers after the break.
“I think we just turned the ball over too many times in general,” said Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon.
Simultaneously, the Griffs went cold from the field, shooting 36.4% from the field and 4-18 from deep in the final 20 minutes.
That’s in stark contrast to the first half in which Canisius hit 47.1% of their shots and went 7-11 from behind the arc.
“We had a pretty good first half and the second half just wasn’t what we needed to do to complete the game,” said Witherspoon.
The Griffs also struggled to defend Rider. The Broncs outscored Canisius 52-32 in the second half, shooting 63% from the field.
At one point, Rider went on a 23-6 run that lasted 9:48, transitioning from being down 53-40 to leading 63-59.
Canisius eventually regrouped, tying the game at 63 before the Broncs took control from that point forward.
Isaiah Reese had a solid game, posting 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. Takal Molson also reached double-figures, finishing with 19 points and five rebounds but also turned the ball over seven times.
Frederick Scott was unstoppable on the other side of the court, scoring 22 points on 7-9 shooting.
Ultimately, the Broncs won due to their press. Rider forced Canisius into more turnovers (13) than field goals (12) in the second half.
“The pressure kind of took us out of what we needed to do on the offensive end,” said Isaiah Reese, “In those situations, we need to stay calm and try to execute.”
The Griffs had no solutions for Rider’s pressure and saw all of their momentum flip once the Broncs went on the attack.
“If you have the basketball and you don’t get shots and there’s live ball turnovers, you’re not going to be able to get your defense set so now they’re getting easy shots and they’re setting up their press,” said Witherspoon, “It starts with us with the basketball.”
With the loss, Canisius drops to 5-10 (2-1) overall. They return to action Sunday afternoon versus Iona.