For the first time in nine years, the men’s basketball team picked up a victory in Hamden, CT as the Hawks defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats 66-51 on Jan. 28.
Defense dominated the first half as MU took a 27-20 lead into halftime, 20 points being the fewest they have given up in the first half so far this season. The Hawks continued to play lock down defense in the second half as they held the Bobcats to 15-69 (21.7%) from the floor for the game. Monmouth shot only 33.9% but it was enough for the program to pick up their first victory at TD Bank Sports Center since it opened in 2007. Junior guard Justin Robinson led the scoring with 13 points while junior center Chris Brady added 11 points and seven rebounds.
“I’m very excited about our kids fighting to get this win,” head coach King Rice said. “Our guys are continuing to believe in each other and our defense was tremendous.”
The Hawks returned to their home court on Jan. 30 against Saint Peter’s where they defeated the Peacocks 73-57 in front of a sellout crowd of 4,105. Robinson led MU with 18 points and junior guard Collin Stewart added 17.
Additionally, Stewart is still recovering from a sprained ankle that he suffered in the Jan. 24 matchup against Marist. He was wheeled to the press conference after the game while sitting on top of a food cart, ankle wrapped up with an ice pack. However, there was never a doubt in his mind he was playing in this game.
“It’s basketball. This is what I’ve been doing since I was a kid, and I love it,” Stewart said. “I’ll do anything to play. I just forget about it once I start playing. I had in my mind since Monday I was going to play.”
“People would not even try to play on a foot like this, and he’s just a tremendous young man,” Rice said. “The other day [Thursday at Quinnipiac], all of his shots looked like they were going in, but they were just off a little bit. Tonight, he has one of the prettiest jump shots you’ve ever seen and when he gets that one-dribble pull-up going, he’s hard to guard.”
The Hawks took a 36-25 lead at halftime, but the Peacocks came out of the half by going on a 10-4 run to cut the deficit to five with 14:48 to play. While Monmouth tried to pull away after that, the Peacocks wouldn’t go down without a fight as they were in the midst of a 12-4 run late in the second half, once again closing the gap to five. But as he’s done all season, Robinson came up with a clutch 3-pointer to extend the Hawks’ lead to eight with 4:38 left to play. Monmouth scored the final 11 points of the game to secure their sixth home victory in as many games.
The Hawks improved to 17-5 on the season and are now 9-2 in the MAAC. MU is a game ahead of Iona and Siena for first place in the conference. Monmouth returns to action on Monday night as they travel to the site of the MAAC Tournament, the Times Union Center in Albany, NY, to take on a Siena team (15-7, 8-3 MAAC) that is undefeated at home this season. With the two teams playing as well as they have, Robinson expects the atmosphere to be somewhat of a preview of what is to come in the MAAC Tournament.
“Absolutely, just because of the buzz we’ve had and the factt [that] we beat them a week and a half ago. I’m anticipating a very rowdy crowd,” Robinson said.
Monmouth returns home on Friday, Feb. 5 as they take on the Fairfield Stags at 7 p.m. on ESPN3.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics