American, disheartened by its three-point loss at Wake Forest Saturday, came on in the second half, outscoring a tired Rider team, 22-5, in the first 10 minutes and going on to an 81-52 rout in an East Coast Conference game last night at Fort Myer.
Mark Nickens, making 15 of 17 shots, led the winners with 31 points. Ed Sloane had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Gordon Austin had 11 points and a career-high 10 assists.
AU (1-0 in the ECC, 3-1 overall) did a lot of things wrong in the first 20 minutes and held only a two-point lead at the half, 35-33.
After halftime, the Eagle defense shut down the Broncos, holding them without a field goal for almost eight minutes to turn the game into a mismatch. Sloane and Austin each scored four points to give the Eagles a little breathing room, 43-37, before the Broncos fell apart.
In addition to missing most of their shots, the Broncos couldn't handle either the AU press or Nickens. The 6-foot-5 junior was accurate from the corners and the lane, missing only once in the second half, on a layup. His shooting gave AU a 57-38 advantage with 10 minutes to play.
"We got everyone involved in the second half," Nickens said. "I think Rider got tired a bit and we hit that streak. The Wake game gave us confidence even though we lost. We found out what kind of a team we are. Before that game, we had no idea how good we are."
Rider will attest to AU's talent. When Nickens wasn't scoring, Sloane was sneaking inside for layups and short jump shots and Austin was penetrating and either passing off for layups or scoring.
The Broncos, who had a 19-16 edge rebounding the first half, managed only one shot at their basket much of the second half and were out of the game once the Eagles found their stride.
With the exception of Nickens' shooting, AU had problems in the first half. Rider's 6-6 forwards, Derrick Lamar and Kim Carter, moved their way inside for several offensive rebounds and easy layups. Four free throws by Rich Weise, two baskets by Carter and a running one-hander by Weise put the Broncos ahead, 31-30, with less than three minutes to play.
The Broncos lost the ball 11 times in the face of the Eagle press, but each time they got the ball past midcourt they scored. After Austin's 14-footer regained the lead for AU, 32-31, the Broncos showed their rebounding superiority, grabbing four misses, but failed to score.