Rider hangs tough in 86-78 loss to No. 10 Pitt

BY foxsports • November 13, 2011

For most of Sunday's game against No. 10 Pittsburgh, the numbers - or lack thereof - didn't matter for Rider.

The Broncs dressed nine players and played just seven, but they erased an early 14-point deficit and led the Panthers with less than five minutes to go in the game.

Rider finally ran out of steam as the game ended, and Pitt used 24 points from Ashton Gibbs and 22 points from Nasir Robinson to escape with an 86-78 win.

Rider coach Tommy Dempsey didn't want to talk moral victories, but was happy with how his team bounced back from a disappointing 83-57 loss to Robert Morris on Friday.

''(Against Robert Morris) we were really struggling to find ourselves,'' Dempsey said. ''Guys were playing a little bit out of character. We were playing a lot of one-on-one, where tonight we were playing team basketball.''

And it was a smaller team than the Broncs (0-2) are used to.

Guard Tommy Pereria and center Dera Nd-Ezuma both missed the game with injuries. Freshman forward Junior Fortunat is still waiting to be cleared by the NCAA and Jonathon Thompson is serving a suspension for a violation of team rules last season.

Anthony Myles led Rider with 20 points. Daniel Stewart added 18 points, while Novar Gadson scored 17 and Virginia transfer Jeff Jones added 15.

Brandon Penn hit a 3-pointer to give Rider a 73-72 lead, but Dante Taylor kickstarted a late Pitt surge that Gibbs capped with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Pitt up 82-76.

The Panthers ended the game on a 16-5 run to win their 58th straight nonconference game at the Petersen Events Center.

''We didn't use it as an excuse, that we were tired,'' Jones said. ''We were out there fighting just like them. It was no excuse that we were short-handed.''

The Panthers (2-0), who cruised to a 33-point win over Albany in their season-opener Friday, appeared to be on their way to another rout as hot shooting from Gibbs and Travon Woodall helped build a quick 14-point lead.

No matter, Rider used a 13-2 run to get back in it as Pitt looked a little bored at times, particularly on defense. Dempsey said the Broncs' ability to spread the floor kept his team in the game.

''We can spread you out because we have so many guys that can shoot the ball,'' he said. ''When we can spread you out, we can get your bigs chasing us a little bit and we got their bigs chasing a little bit. I think we just caused them a lot of problems with our motion and our action.''

Then again, Pitt's offense wasn't so sharp when the ball wasn't in Gibbs' hands.

At one point Dixon gestured angrily as reserve forward Talib Zanna threw the ball out of bounds trying to find Gibbs on the wing. It wouldn't be enough to snap the Panthers out of their slumber. Rider eventually tied it at 45 on a 3-pointer by Jones just before the halftime buzzer, sending the Broncs racing to the locker room while Dixon stalked off behind his sleepy team.

Rider's 45 points were the second-most the Panthers have ever allowed in a half at home since the Petersen Events Center opened.

Big East rival Notre Dame once dropped 46 in a half against the Panthers, though Pitt came back to win that game in overtime.

The Panthers didn't have to work quite as long this time, though they appeared to be in serious trouble when an Anthony Myles dunk gave the Broncs, picked to finish fourth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in the preseason, a 61-55 lead with 11:40 to go.

Myles led Rider with 20 points. Pitt's defense finally awoke and the Panthers found enough focus to improve to 81-0 all-time at the Pete against nonconference opponents in November and December. Woodall finished with 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for the Panthers, who won despite allowing Rider to shoot 53 percent from the floor.

''It was punch, counterpunch the whole game and we just came up a little short,'' Dempsey said.

Maybe, though the Broncs gave the Panthers plenty to work on heading into Wednesday's game against Long Beach State.

''We're always concerned this time of year,'' Dixon said. ''We've got to get better. This better not be our best, put it that way.''

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