This one wasn't as easy, but it didn't matter. The winning streak has reached eight games, and the race for the top seeding in the NEC tournament just got a little tighter.
The Mountaineers couldn't miss at the beginning, and couldn't shake Rider until near the end, needing a hot second half from senior guard Riley Inge to secure an 80-70 victory before 2,795 at Knott Arena.
Inge scored 17 of his 21 points after halftime, including a short baseline jumper with the shot clock winding down that put the Mount ahead by 10 with 3:50 left. Senior guard Chris McGuthrie had 22 points to lead five Mountaineers in double figures.
The outcome, coupled with Monmouth's upset loss at home to St. Francis (Pa.) and Marist's victory over Long Island, left a three-way tie for first. Each team is 10-2 in the conference.
The announcement that Monmouth had been beaten drew a loud ovation from the crowd. "I heard the noise, but didn't hear the score," said Mount coach Jim Phelan, who picked up his 751st career win. "I figured something good had happened for us."
He hopes more good things will come from a favorable schedule that has the Mountaineers (14-6) playing four of their last six games at home, including next Wednesday's clash with Monmouth.
This was the Mountaineers' second victory over Rider (11-10, 6-6) this season, the other coming in January, 78-56. They hit their first six shots, and nine of 12, and never trailed after the first minute.
They got the lead up to 10 points with 8:20 remaining in the half after McGuthrie scored from beyond the arc with one foot almost out of bounds in front of Rider's bench. But from there, the Broncs went on an 8-2 run, taking advantage of some sloppy passing from the Mount that contributed to 10 first-half turnovers.
A steal and basket by sophomore Kevin McPeek with 1:40 left pulled Rider within three points.
"We played like crap in the first half," said Inge, who had five turnovers and four assists. "We just weren't playing hard all the time. Everyone was playing in spurts. We weren't all on the same page at the same time."
Rider got within one point on a jumper by Greg Burston with 16 minutes remaining, and a dunk by Kevin McPeek four minutes later reduced the lead to 50-48. But the Mount always had an answer.
This time, sophomore center Gerben Van Dorpe (10 points) scored from the outside, and junior guard Silas Cheung (11 points) took a step back behind the arc and hit the jumper. And when Rider again closed to within four, Inge and McGuthrie made three-pointers to stave off another rally.
Senior forward Jeff Balistrere added 15 points for the Mount, which made just three turnovers in the second half and shot 54 percent for the game. Junior forward Charles Smith led Rider with 18.
"I was pleased with our consistency when they got close to us," Phelan said. "You have to see how you can play when you're being pressured, and I told them they reacted pretty well."