Rider Hammers USC; CVC Comes to Garden

You could have a pretty interesting debate right about now as to which is the best Division 1 team in the state of New Jersey.

Ivy League favorite Princeton (1-1) beat Rutgers but got hammered by Duke.

Rutgers (1-1) rebounded from the OT loss to the Tigers by beating MAAC favorite Fairfield in Mike Rice’s RAC debut. Next up is Sunday’s tilt with Durand Scott and Miami in what should be a great test for Rice’s undermanned crew.

Seton Hall (1-1) similarly rebounded from an ugly loss at No. 22 Temple to crush Cornell at home. Kevin Willard now takes his team to the U.S. Virgin Islands for Friday’s tilt with Alabama. St. Peter’s (0-1), playing without injured star Wesley Jenkins until late November or early December, is also in the islands and will meet Old Dominion.

But what about Rider? The Broncs are 2-1 after drilling USC, 77-57, Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

“This senior class, they now have a Big East win (Rutgers), an SEC win (Mississippi State), a Big Ten win (Penn State) and a Pac-10 win, and I think it was about 26 years between those four and the last big Rider win in the early 1980s,” Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey said.

“It’s a tough group of kids who have won a lot of big games, and when they come into these environments they expect to win.”

Senior Justin Robinson (pictured) poured in a career-high 28 points, including the 1,000th of his career, to lead the Broncs. Robinson made nine of 10 shots from the field, including all five of his 3-pointers and all five of his foul shots.

“It was a great performance by a lot of guys tonight,” Dempsey said, “but Justin was just fantastic.”

USC (2-1) never led.

“Tonight was a great example of getting the lead and Justin was not going to let happen what happened at UMass,” Dempsey said, referring to the season opener when Rider led UMass by 21 and lost by 10.

Next up for the Broncs are tilts this weekend with Texas Christian and Loyola Marymount in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Springfield, Mass.

PITT BACKCOURT KEY AGAINST TEXAS

Heading into tonight’s Coaches vs. Cancer event at Madison Square Garden, Maryland coach Gary Williams knows his team will have its hands full with the Pittsburgh backcourt of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker.

“Pitt’s ranked where they are for a reason,” Williams said of the No. 5 Panthers (3-0) on a conference call. “Gibbs is one of those guys that really knows how to play. He plays a very intelligent game and is a great shooter who gives them great leadership in the backcourt. Wanamaker is another seasoned guard. He’s a really good scorer.

“That’s a pretty good combination. Not many people have that,” Williams said. “In college basketball when you have those veteran guards, we went through that last year, it makes a difference as a coach and what you can do.”

Both guards are averaging 19.3 points a game and Gibbs, the former Seton Hall Prep standout, is draining 45.8 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

“I think they obviously had real good years last year, both of them, and they’re better players this year,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. “I said all last year Brad was overlooked and underrated. Now he scores a few points in a couple of games on TV and more people are talking about him. He does a lot of things for us.”

Maryland (3-0) features its own star in 6-10, 260-pound sophomore forward Jordan Williams of Torrington, Conn.

Williams, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, enters the game averaging 21 points and 13.7 rebounds. Without the departed Greivis Vasquez, last year’s ACC Player of the Year, he is the new face of the Terps.

“We do have veterans from last year like Jordan Williams who was first-team, All-ACC freshman last year and one of the 50 candidates for the Wooden Award this season,” Williams said. “He’s played very well so far.”

No. 13 Illinois faces Texas in the nightcap, with the winners to meet in Friday’s championship.

For more on the event, read my feature on the stud freshmen coming to MSG.

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