It will be obvious who’s missing from the Rider lineup when the Broncs play a rematch of the 2008 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game against Siena at 7 tonight at the Times Union Center.
MAAC player of the year Jason Thompson was a first-round NBA draft pick, and is playing well for the Sacramento Kings.
The Saints (4-0, 10-5) will have to adjust to a hole in their own lineup, as senior co-captain Josh Duell will be out for 3-6 weeks with a sprained knee from Tuesday’s 91-84 loss at Kansas that stopped Siena’s five-game winning streak.
Without Thompson in the middle, the Broncs have turned into more of an outside-shooting team. The loss of Duell will have a more subtle effect on Siena, as the Saints will lose some size and three-point shooting, but most significantly, Duell’s experience and leadership.
He was hurt in the second half of the Kansas game when teammate Kyle Downey fell back into Duell’s knee as he defended the basket.
An MRI on Thursday revealed a Grade 2 MCL sprain and an ACL sprain, along with bone bruising in the area.
It was a gut-wrenching turn of fate for the senior, who missed most of the preseason with an Achilles tendon injury, and had just gotten himself fit enough to start playing the way he had expected to.
“Obviously, it’s a blow to our team, but when you have a guy like Josh Duell, you feel really bad,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “You watch how hard he’s worked to overcome injuries he’s had, and now he’s playing great and having a lot of fun his senior year. I feel bad for him. I hope we can get him to the point where he can help us at some point.”
Rider is 8-5 overall and 3-0 in the MAAC, tied with Niagara for second place.
The Broncs are led by preseason MAAC first-teamer Ryan Thompson, Jason’s 6-foot-6 brother who missed the MAAC championship game after sustaining a concussion in the semifinals.
He is averaging 16.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and has 40 assists, all tops for Rider. He’s also making 38.5 percent of his three-pointers on a team with several players who can go deep, including Harris Mansell, Matt Griffin and Lamar Johnson.
“I voted for him for Rookie of the Year, so in my mind, he’s kind of doing the same things he’s always done,” McCaffery said. “You know, he plays both ends, he rebounds, he drives it, he shoots it. I think he’s probably a little better three-point shooter than he was his freshman year, he’s worked on that. But in terms of being able to go off the dribble, hit the post and basket-cut, block a shot and really impact the game with his intensity level, there’s not been a whole lot of change. He’s a guy who could ultimately be Player of the Year in this league.”
Rider embarrassed Siena in the first meeting last year, scoring 59 points in the first half and winning, 89-75, in a game that was televised on ESPN2.
Jason Thompson had 23 points and 21 rebounds, then improved those numbers with 26 and 24 at Rider, but Duell scored eight points in the final 1:35, including the game-winning three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left.
Then Siena won the MAAC championship, 74-53, with Ryan Thompson in street clothes. Although Jason Thompson is gone, Siena expects that the 2008-09 Broncs are hungry for payback.
“I’m sure it is [a revenge game] for them,” McCaffery said. “Last year, during the regular season, we split with them, they came in here and drilled us pretty good, and I’m sure they remember that, so do we. So, we recognize this is one of the premier teams in our league and they’re coming in here expecting to knock us off, and we have to be ready.”
Women play first
The Siena men’s game will be the second half of a double-header that starts with the Siena and Rider women playing at 4:30.
The Saints are coming off a bad four-point loss to Saint Peter’s in which Siena was outscored, 13-0, in the final 4:36.
Rider (2-11) has lost 10 straight.