- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 01 March 2017
- Written by JOHN SORCE | SPORTS EDITOR
The men’s basketball team extended their program record winning streak to 16 games as Monmouth defeated Siena 77-73 on Friday night and Iona 79-73 on Sunday night.
A sell-out crowd of 4,172 packed OceanFirst Bank Center for senior night. Seven seniors were honored after the game including centers Zac Tillman and Chris Brady, forward Greg Noack, and guards Collin Stewart, Je’lon Hornbeak, Josh James, and Justin Robinson.
Monmouth led from 5:38 in the first half until Siena tied the game at 14:01 in the second half on a layup by Khali Richard. The lead changed six times from that point on and no team led by more than three points over that span until a pair of free throws by sophomore forward Diago Quinn at 6:02 gave the Hawks a lead they held onto for the rest of the game.
Siena cut the lead to two on a Lavon Long jumper with 41 seconds to go, but Robinson secured the win with a step-back jumper with 12 seconds remaining, making it a two-possession game.
“These families chose our school with their pride and joy, their sons,” Head Coach King Rice said. “They chose us when we weren’t very good, and my record was awful and for some reason, their families thought I was the right guy to turn their kids into men.”
“Everybody believed in Coach Rice and he believed in us, so that allowed us to propel this program in the right direction,” Robinson said. “We have high-level kids committing here to come play, so I want to see this program keep going in the right direction. I know what’s going to happen with a guy like Coach Rice. He’s bringing in the right kids and he’s got the right people on the coaching staff.”
Monmouth also became the first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) team since the league went to a 20 game conference schedule to win 18 games after besting Iona at Hynes Athletic Center in New Rochelle, NY on Sunday night in front of a sellout crowd of 2,611.
Monmouth took a three-point lead into halftime after junior guard Austin Tilghman banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer for the second time in four games. The game was very tight throughout the second half and Iona tied the game at 5:56 on a Sam Cassell layup.
But MU responded when James scored five points in a 10 second span. A three-pointer and a lay-up after a steal gave the Hawks a 66-61 lead. Hornbeak’s fifth three-pointer of the night made it a seven-point Monmouth lead with under three minutes to play, which was the turning point. The game was tied six times and featured seven lead changes.
“I thought that was a fun college basketball game,” Rice said. “I thought my guys played hard and we were able to play well enough because it’s not easy to get a win here.”
Hornbeak led the way tying a career-high with 25 points and has now scored 998 career points. Robinson finished with 16 and scored in double figures in all but two games this season. Tilghman was the only other Hawk to score in double figures, registering 10 points while also setting a career-high with nine rebounds. Brady hauled in 10 rebounds for the sixth time this season.
“We just went out and stuck to the game plan,” Hornbeak said. “Me, Micah and J-Rob went out there and not necessarily try to feel it out, but try to get going early, which has always been our game plan. I caught a little rhythm going so they just keep feeding me and we went from there.”
Monmouth shot 47.1 percent from the floor while Iona shot 40.3 percent. The blue and white turned on the attack in the second half, making 13 of 22 shots for a 59.1 percent clip.
Robinson and Seaborn were named to the All-MAAC First Team on Monday afternoon, marking just the third time the blue and white have placed two players on the First Team. It was the third year in a row Robinson was named to the team, and only the second time a Hawk was named First Team All-Conference three times, joining Alex Blackwell who did it three times in the Northeast Conference.
Monmouth’s 16-game winning streak is the second longest active streak in the country (Vermont-18) and the win marks the first time the blue and white has ever swept the season series with Iona. This is also the first time Iona has been swept under Head Coach Tim Cluess in MAAC play. The 26 wins is the most Monmouth has ever obtained in the regular season.
The Hawks will take on the winner of the eight/nine game between Quinnipiac and Niagara on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY in the MAAC Tournament quarterfinals. The game will air on ESPN3.
PHOTO COURTESY of Karlee Sell