Hartford was looking to stretch their win streak to three with a trip down to New Jersey to face the Rider Broncs. One of their most memorable match ups against the Broncs was in the 2012-13 season where they met in Hartford's first post-season tournament appearance.
This time the Hawks came back with a vengeance and feeling confident in their playing, despite recent injuries.
Cleveland "Pancake" Thomas had a career night, dominating the court for the Hawks. If the ball went in the net, it was more than likely he touched it. He ended the night with a new career high of 35 points and 17 rebounds, adding five assists and one block. The last time a Hawk hit the 30 point mark was Wes Cole who decided to have a career night with 10 shots from beyond the arc.
But this game wasn't just about Thomas. In the double overtime game, it all came down to foul shots and final shots. Rider had issues with foul shots in the beginning, hitting only 6 of 13 in the first half. Hartford wasn't much better hitting only 6 of their 10 from the charity stripe. Things heated up in the second half into overtime. Each shot was worth more, each miss was a bigger opportunity for the other to bring it back.
Rider took the lead for the first time with 2:40 left in the second half at 58-57 after Jimmie Taylor hit one of their seven from beyond the arc. A few more free throws found Hartford down 59-62 with less than 30 seconds on the clock. Evan Cooper missed a three point shot, but brought in the rebound and after a bit of hot potato with the ball, it fell into the hands of freshman and New Jersey native, Jason Dunne. With two seconds left on the clock, Dunne drains the triple to send the game into over time.
Overtime is where things got complicated. Hartford had the problem of Thomas playing most of the game once he got fired up. There was no way he would sit on the bench for long, and this was only the second game that went into overtime. Playing more than 30 minutes wasn't very common. Fatigue seemed to be setting in with everyone.
With five seconds left in the second overtime, George Blagojevic drained a three to bring their deficit to only a point at 81-80. The Hawks had to foul but unfortunately made the mistake of fouling Teddy Okereafor who went 13-for-20 at the line. He missed the second of the two free throws giving Hartford the chance to tie or win the game. Hartford heaved the ball to their end of the court. But time got the better of them. Thomas drove to the basket but kicked it out to Jalen Ross in the last second. That time cost them the game as the buzzer sounded before Ross could let it go.
While this adds another tick to the loss column for Hartford, they should walk away from the game with quite a few positives. The Hawks take a break for the new year but are back in action on Jan. 2 to face off against their last in-state rival, Yale.