The Monmouth men’s basketball team returns home from the Advocare Invitational with two huge wins over no. 17 Notre Dame and University of Southern California. Their only loss throughout the tournament was to Dayton during the semi-finals. The tournament, presented by ESPN, was a weekend long event beginning Thursday, Nov. 26 and ending Sunday, Nov. 29.
The first game began with high energy as the Hawks defeated no. 17 Notre Dame for their first battle of the weekend. Not only was this the first time in Hawk history that blue and white defeated a Top 25 ranked team but the win also marked the 900th total victory in Monmouth basketball.
“This was an extremely exciting moment for our kids and our program. Our kids played hard, believed in each other and just weren’t going to be denied tonight. When you believe in each other, anything can happen,” said Head Coach King Rice on the victory over Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish fell to the Hawks as Monmouth got the ball with 32 seconds remaining and tied the score at 68-68. Junior guard, Justin Robinson killed time on the clock right before driving to the right side of the basket and drawing a foul from Notre Dame’s Jackson. Robinson connected both free throws with 3.6 seconds to make the final score 70-68 and the Hawks nation shocking upset.
Not only did Monmouth’s men’s basketball win over a crowd on ESPN that night, but their bench let the world know that everyone has a part to play on the team, on the court and off. Many celebratory plays on the court had the sideline ecstatic grabbing the attention of viewers and even the nation. The Hawk’s bench squad, led by cousins Dan and Louie Pillari, along with freshman Tyler Robinson and injured forward Greg Noack, have brought a new meaning to supporting your teammates and USA Today says, “Monmouth may have assembled the greatest bench squad in college basketball history.”
“This trip has been amazing for all of us. Tyler, Louie, Dan and I wanted to just support the team as much as possible and create an energy that was easily transferable throughout the team. And then the Monmouth bench was created”, says Greg Noack, one fourth of the all-star bench.
The bench had some moments to celebrate the next match against Dayton, however there was not too much to get excited over after the Hawks efforts fell short in the semifinals, 73-70 on Friday night. After coming off of a 16-point deficit, Justin Robinson matched his career-high 28 points for the third time this season and just missed that game-tying show as the buzzer went off to conclude the game. Three other Hawks also had double-figures. Red-shirt freshman guard, Micah Seaborn, contributed 12 points and five assists while junior guard Collin Stewart along with junior center Chris Brady both connected for 10 points.
The tournament concluded on Sunday where the Hawks faces USC for the second time this season. Last time Monmouth saw the Trojans they fell, 90-101, however this time the Hawks came out on top with a 83-73 victory over USC to take third place in the Advocare Invitational.
“This trip has been great for our team and program! We got to come to Florida and play against some high major competition to really test ourselves, before going on this long journey of the season”, said junior guard Josh James on the experience of the weekend.
Robinson set a tournament scoring record with 77 total points in just three games, falling just one short of his career high Sunday night against USC. The Trojans we’re pushing late in the game but MU answered when UC cut the deficit to three with just 2:02 remaining in the game with a pair of foul shots.
With 1:50 remaining, the Hawks called timeout and got the ball to Deon Jones who drove from in front of Monmouth’s bench to dunk over two Trojan defenders and bring the the lead back up to five. Naturally, the Monmouth bench also had another reaction to Jones’ dunk.
USC’s Nikola Jovanovic hit two free throws to cut it back to back to three, and Robinson answered with another three-pointer with 56 seconds left that broke the record scoring 77 total points in the process. Jones made two more foul shots right before Micah Seaborn delivered a three-point play with 32 seconds to go, and Monmouth would get the victory up by 10, 83-73.
The Hawks return home with a 4-2 record and finished 2-1 in the tournament. MU’s next game is on the road Dec. 4 to start the weekend New York trip with Canisius up first. They will play their first home game on Sunday, Dec. 13 against Wagner at 2 pm.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics