It’s has now been over a month since the men’s basketball team last won a game as the Hawks’ losing streak extended to nine after home losses to the Manhattan Jaspers and Saint Peter’s Peacocks last week.
The nine-game skid is the longest in head coach King Rice’s three years at Monmouth, and MU now sits at ninth in the MAAC conference standings with a 4-14 record. Overall the team is 10-19 on the season.
For the first six and half minutes of the first half neither team gained control with the Jaspers never leading by fewer than seven, but never leading by more than 13.
“I feel bad for our kids because we are fighting tremendously hard and just haven’t been able to get over the top,” said Rice after the team’s loss to Saint Peter’s. “But I truly believe we are getting better daily and we will get over the top.”
MU first went down to Manhattan Wednesday, Feb. 19 by a final score of 75-61. The Jaspers’ superior shooting was a big part of the outcome as they shot 51.9 percent from the field on the night, including a 42.9 percent effort from the three point line, while the Hawks managed to shoot only 39.3 percent overall from the floor, with a 30 percent mark from beyond the arc.
Freshman guard Josh James was the Hawks’ leading scorer with 15 points on 6-10 shooting, and he also grabbed five rebounds for the game. Junior guards Deon Jones and Andrew Nicholas were the only other Hawks to put up double-digit points with Jones collecting 14 and Nicholas 11. Jones led the team with nine rebounds on the night.
Manhattan’s George Beamon scored 31 points on 10-19 shooting to lead both teams. Beamon scored 18 of his 31 from the three-point line with six makes on eight attempts, and also recorded three steals. All six of Beamon’s threes came in the first half of play. Rhamel Brown and Emmy Andujar added 12 points apiece for Manhattan with Brown also pulling down 8 rebounds to lead his team.
Beamon wasted no time scoring; less than 50 seconds into the game, he hit one of his six threes to give his team an early lead. Nicholas brought MU right back, however, when he hit two threes in under a minute to cut the deficit to four just under 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
A layup from Brown on Manhattan’s next possession ended the Hawks short 6-0 run, and started a 17-5 run by the Jaspers that was capped off by another Beamon three to give them a 31-15 advantage with 8:23 to go in the half.
Behind the play of Jones and freshman center Zac Tillman MU again responded, and outscored the Jaspers by ten over a four-minute stretch to get within six with 4:16 remaining for the half.
The Hawks were unable to keep the deficit at single-digits before halftime, however, as a last second layup from Beamon put Manhattan up 41-31 at the half.
A Brown free throw and back to back layups from Beamon and Andujar at the 11:35 mark increased Manhattan’s lead to 16, and were part of a 14-4 Jasper run that extended the lead to 21 with under eight minutes to go.
The blue and white came back with a 13-2 run of their own that was highlighted by the play of James and Jones who scored six and five points over the stretch respectively. The run brought MU within ten points, but with only three minutes left on the clock, the team was not able to come back. Beamon hit three free throws in the final minutes to close the game out.
It was the sixth straight win for Manhattan, and the team currently has a 20-7 overall record with a 13-5 record in the MAAC, which is good enough for third place behind first place Iona and second place Quinnipiac. Prior to the season, the Jaspers were picked to finish first in the conference.
“I am very proud of our effort tonight,” said Rice after the game. “Our kids are fighting. Tonight we just ran into a bigger, stronger Manhattan team.
Except for the shooting numbers both teams’ stat lines were very similar with the Hawks outrebounding the Jaspers by four and equaling them in second chance and fast break points.
The Hawks then fell 61-51 to St. Peter’s three nights later on Feb. 22 in front of a packed house at the MAC. It was MU’s second lowest score of the season with their first also coming against the Peacocks when they only managed to score 50.
James again led MU in points, and was also the games high scorer with 18 on 50 percent shooting from the field. The freshman also lead his team in assists with four, steals with three, and was second in rebounds with four. Nicholas was the team’s second leading scorer with 10, and he also grabbed four rebounds on the game.
Three Peacocks reached double digits in points with Chris Burke’s 16 leading the way. Desi Washington was right behind him with 14, and Marvin Dominique put in 12. Dominique’s nine rebounds led Saint Peter’s and put him only one short of a double double.
Neither team had a good night offensively as both teams shot only slightly above 37 percent from the field. The Peacocks had a sizeable advantage from the three-point line, however, going 7-20 (35 percent) on the night compared to 3-13 (23.1 percent) from the Hawks.
“Give a lot of credit to Saint Peter’s,” explained Rice after the loss. “They make you play their style by slowing you down on the defensive end, but also playing slow on the offensive end.”
In a very low scoring first half, MU started off by jumping out to an early 9-2 lead with four different players recording a score. Roles were then reversed as Saint Peter’s went on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 11 with 9:27 remaining in the half. A Jamel Fields triple, almost a minute later, pushed it to a 12-2 run, and gave the Peacocks their first lead of the game at 14-11.
Saint Peter’s continued to increase their lead, and, with just under two minutes to go, a pair of Dominique free throws gave them their biggest lead of the half with a 27-18 score.
James then converted a three-point play for the Hawks, and junior forward Khalil Brown followed with a second chance bucket to bring the Hawks within four.
Dominique knocked down a last second three off a nice assist from Trevis Wyche to send St. Peter’s into the locker room with a 30-23 advantage. Saint Peter’s wasted no time coming out of halftime, and extended their lead to 12 in the first minute of the half.
The double-digit lead did not last long though as Jones and Nicholas hit consecutive threes for MU to bring the score to 37-29 with 17 minutes on the clock.
Scoring came to a complete standstill as neither team scored a point during the next five minutes of play.
Freshman center Chris Brady finally ended the scoring drought when he hit a jumper to cut the lead to six nearly 10 minutes into the half. MU wouldn’t get any closer over the final 10 minutes, however, as the Peacocks hit 10-14 foul shots in the final two minutes to keep the Hawks at bay and seal the 10 point victory.
Saint Peter’s currently sits one spot ahead of MU at eighth in the conference standings with a 7-11 MAAC record. They are 11-16 overall on the year.
The regular season is quickly coming to a close for the Hawks with only two games remaining. Mathematically, MU cannot be any higher than the ninth seed in the upcoming MAAC Championship Tournament no matter how they finish the year, but they will look to avoid falling further down the standings as Fairfield and Niagara are both right behind them with 3-15 marks in the MAAC.
The Hawks next host Niagara this Friday, Feb. 28 in a contest that will have a big impact on both team’s seed in the tournament. Tip-off is set for 7 pm.
PHOTOS COURTESY of Jim Reme