- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 16 November 2016
- Written by JOHN SORCE | SPORTS EDITOR
The men’s basketball team, coming off a 28-8 campaign a season ago and their first ever trip to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), opened up a highly-anticipated season with a 78-65 victory over Drexel on Friday night at OceanFirst Bank Center.
“It was a weird feeling when I went out there tonight. I’m sitting there while the kids are warming up and I felt like we were just doing this a little while ago,” sixth year Monmouth Head Coach King Rice said about taking the court for a game once again. “It was great to come and play our first game at home, which we haven’t done before since I’ve been the coach here, and the buzz and energy that was in the building made it feel like it was an end of the season game. But just getting the first win is awesome and just like last year, now we get to go have some fun on the big boy’s court.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Micah Seaborn and senior guard Je’lon Hornbeak got off to fast starts, each connecting with 3-pointers leading into the first media timeout. Hornbeak drained another deep ball before the next media timeout, but he felt that his fast start did not transition to the remainder of the game.
“I honestly felt like I wasn’t really on today,” Hornbeak said. “A lot of shots that I felt like should have went in didn’t but I have to trust in the work that I put in and just keep playing. There are other things I can do and no matter who’s scoring, I’m happy as long as we win.”
Once Monmouth took the lead after Seaborn’s initial 3-pointer, they never looked back. The blue and white led by 15 at the half and led by as many as 21 in the second half before coming away with the 13 point victory.
An announced crowd of 3,738 came out to support the Hawks on opening night, including a jam-packed student section of over 1,100 students. Rice credits his players for making that happen over the past year.
“I have to give these guys the credit. We’ve talked about playing in front of sold-out arenas and we feel like we have the best fans in the world representing us. They’re loud and our student section is incredible. But there were nights when it wasn’t full so it’s good that we got that taken care of last year and now we have the team that we have and people should come because they will be a lot of exciting nights in our arena.”
Four Hawks scored double-figures and were led by Seaborn, who finished with 17. Senior guard Justin Robinson had 15 and Hornbeak had 13, while senior center Chris Brady finished with 14 and eight rebounds. Thirteen Hawks saw action including the debuts of redshirt freshmen guard Louie Pillari and forward Mustapha Traore and freshman center Sam Ibiezugbe. Nine (Brady, Robinson, Seaborn, Hornbeak, Pillari, senior guard Josh James, junior guard Austin Tilghman, senior guard Collin Stewart, and sophomore forward Diago Quinn) of them saw at least ten minutes of game action.
Monmouth will travel to Syracuse, NY on Friday, Nov. 18 and take on a Syracuse team that advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament a season ago. Tip-off at the Carrier Dome will be at 7 p.m.
A victory over the Orangemen would be yet another impressive task for a team that has made a habit of such things, and Seaborn feels that confidence that was gained a season ago will help this year’s team handle any opponent.
“I definitely feel that it helps us, especially knowing that we went out last year and won some of those big games on the road, so I feel that it’s going to help a lot of our guys knowing that we can play with any team this year,” Seaborn said. “All of our guys are really confident going in and last year we were hoping to win. This year we expect to win.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University Athletics