“It was similar to last year,” Solomon said. “We were going back and forth last year, and we definitely though we were going to win that.”
Greg Kuakumensah’s 3-pointer and Nwandu’s layup gave Niagara a 32-21 lead with about six minutes left in the first half.
But Rider’s Jeremiah Pope hit back-to-back shots that cut Niagara’s lead from 11 to 6, and forced the Purple Eagles to call a timeout with 2:16 left in the half. After the timeout, Tyrel Bladen’s basket off transition cut Niagara’s lead to 32-28, as the Purple Eagles were mired in a scoring drought of more than four minutes late in the first half, before Nick MacDonald’s basket with 36 seconds left.
Even then, Pope answered with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and completed a 12-3 run by the Broncs in the final 6 1/2 minutes of the first half.
“Rider finished off the first half really well,” said Paulus, whose team led 35-33 at halftime. “We had an 11-point lead and they cut away from that a little bit, and they carried over the momentum from the end of the first half to the start of the second half.
“Rider’s energy, enthusiasm, they made some shots and plays to finish that half off,” he added.
Niagara was unable to capitalize on much in a 75-45 loss to the Orange in the Purple Eagles’ season opener.
Niagara’s shooting woes continued early in the second half, as they opened 0 for 5 from the floor and Rider built a 45-38 lead in the first 4:10. Rider opened its lead to nine about seven minutes into the second half, and continued to limit Niagara’s shots, but the Broncs otherwise maintained at least a six-point lead until the six-minute mark of the second half, when Hammond (17 points) and Solomon hit back-to-back shots and cut Rider’s 64-56 lead to 64-60.