- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 24 February 2016
- Written by JOHN SORCE | STAFF WRITER
Four thousand five hundred and twenty two fans packed the MAC in one of the most highly anticipated home games in years. But ultimately, the men’s basketball team fell to the Iona Gaels 83-67 on Friday, Feb. 19 in front of the largest crowd in the history of the Multipurpose Activity Center.
The student section was filled an hour before the 10 p.m. tip-off on ESPNU. The Hawks came out fast and took a two point lead at the first media timeout, but the Gaels were in control the rest of the way.
Iona responded by going on a 19-0 run and took a 19 point lead into the locker room while holding MU to just 28 percent (9-32) in the first half and 2-11 from three. MU’s 25 first half points were the fewest they have scored in a half all season.
“They scored and we didn’t,” junior guard Justin Robinson said when asked about Iona’s 19-0 run. “We put our heads down defensively, which is something we’ve reiterated that we can’t do and we did that for an extended period of time. It’s not just Iona. If you do that against any team in the country, they’re going to capitalize on it. We have to learn from that.”
The Hawks came out in the second half by going on a 7-4 run to cut the deficit to 16. Iona extended the lead back to 20 with 15:20 to play. A pair of layups by sophomore guard Austin Tilghman made it a 15 point game with 10:58 remaining.
A three-pointer by freshman guard Micah Seaborn cut the deficit to 13, but like most of the second half, Iona senior guard A.J. English answered with a three of his own.
With 4:12 remaining, Seaborn nailed his second consecutive three-pointer leading to an Iona timeout with the score 69-58. The 11 point deficit would be as close as the Hawks would come. MU’s defeat on its home floor was their first of the season.
“We’ve been on a good, good streak but all the credit goes to Iona for how they played tonight,” head coach King Rice said.
The Hawks are down a key performer in senior guard Deon Jones for an undetermined amount of time due to a broken right hand he suffered in Monmouth’s 79-70 win over Manhattan on Feb. 15. But Rice says there are no excuses, and the rest of the team needs to step up in his absence.
“No excuses,” Rice said. “Deon wasn’t going to stop a 20 point lead. Tonight, Iona was prepared. You could tell their coaches worked on a lot of stuff. They were ready for everything and that’s a sign of a good coach. I give credit where credit is due. Usually, for one night, your team will step up and play better when you have a guy injured. Tonight was not that night for us.”
English led the Gaels with 31 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Robinson had 21 points and eight boards for the Hawks while Tilghman had 15 and Seaborn added 12.
The Hawks bounced back by knocking off Saint Peter’s on Sunday, Feb. 21 in Jersey City by a score of 82-75 in overtime. With the win, MU clinched a top-two seed in the MAAC Tournament.
The two teams were tied at 28 at halftime and the game remained close for the majority of the second half. St. Peter’s junior guard Chazz Patterson’s jump shot gave the Peacocks a three point lead with 1:30 to go. However, Robinson answered with a three-pointer at the other end to tie the game. A pair of St. Peter’s freshman guard Antwon Portley free throws made it 64-62 Peacocks with 1:01 to go, but Robinson hit a pair of his own to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Hawks failed to make a shot from the floor, but went 18-18 from the free throw line. Robinson converted 10 free-throws as MU outscored St. Peter’s 18-11 to escape the Yanitelli Center with their 23rd victory on the season. Seaborn led the Hawks with a career high 26 points, while Robinson added 22.
MU is 23-6 (15-3 MAAC) on the season and return home Friday night as they take on Rider (11-17, 7-10 MAAC) at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.
The final game of the regular season is Sunday, Feb. 28 at The MAC against Niagara (7-22, 5-13 MAAC) at 5 p.m.on ESPN3.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics