Men’s Basketball saw their season come to an end after a loss to the No. 1 Iona Gaels, 81-60, in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championship on Monday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY.
“Iona’s a tough out. We’ve tried everything, and I have to give [Iona Head] Coach Tim Cluess all the credit in the world again and I truly mean it,” Head Coach King Rice said. “He’s a super coach and really gets his kids to play together, more than most people… I thought we were going to get this today and I was way off on that. I thank Diago Quinn for choosing us and believing in what we were doing these last four years and I’m sorry that we couldn’t get over the hump for him.”
After netting the first four points, Iona went on a 17-2 run to take an 11 point lead on off a three pointer and extended it to a 12 point advantage at 12:45 on a layup. Monmouth got back in it, rushing through a 6-0 run in the latter stages of the period with a pair of makes from sophomore guard Deion Hammond to cut it to three before a late three made it 36-30 at the half.
Back-to-back triples from sophomore guard Marcus McClary and junior guard Nick Rutherford cut it to a three-point game early in the second half, but Iona hit a pair of threes in an 11-0 run to make it 52-38 at 14:41. The Hawks scored to halt the stretch, only to see the Gaels score the next nine to lead by 21 with 12:00 remaining. Iona held that margin through the remainder of the half, with sophomore guard George Papas coming on late to knock in a pair of threes for the Blue and White.
Quinn lead the way in his final game with 13 points a on perfect 5-5 from the field. The Hawks shot 43 percent on the game. Monmouth’s bench outscored Iona’s 24-2.
The No. 6 Hawks went on a run to the championship game by winning three games in four days.
The Hawks started the tournament on Thursday night with a 76-72 win over the 11 seed Niagara Purple Eagles, then a 98-92 win over No. 3 Quinnipiac on Saturday and a 73-59 win over No. 2 Canisius on Sunday night before falling to the Gaels.
In the regular season against Iona, they split the series a game apiece. Iona took the first game to open up MAAC play with a 104-84 loss on Jan. 3 in New Rochelle, NY. The Hawks squeaked by the second go around, winning 83-81 on Jan. 20 in West Long Branch.
After starting the season 0-12 going into New Year’s Eve, the Hawks have a record of 14-9. Those wins included a 76-72 win over Niagara on Thursday night, a 98-92 win over Quinnipiac on Saturday night, and a 73-59 win over Canisius on Sunday night, before losing to the Iona Gaels on Monday night. The Hawks won their first games of the year against Niagara (lost once 75-48), Quinnipiac (lost twice), and Canisius (lost twice) in the MAAC Tournament.
Leading up to this season, the Hawks lost their best scorer in Micah Seaborn, who left the school to put his name in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft. They then lost their first 12 games to open the season, those included No. 10/No. 9 Kentucky, Hofstra, and three losses in the Myrtle Beach Invitational which included West Virginia. Their first win of the season came on New Year’s Eve as the Hawks won 76-74 in overtime against Penn, who were coming off of a win over No. 17/No. 16 ranked Villanova. After gaining some momentum to go into MAAC play, they started it with the loss to Iona. Conference games included ups and downs along the way; they had three four-game winning streaks and a four-game losing streak, including three-straight losses at home to finish the regular season.
The Hawks will see two players graduate, four-year member Quinn and first-year graduate student Trevon Gross, who transferred in from Virginia.
“It’s a blessing that I’ve been able to play pretty much every game since I came here as a freshman, that’s a blessing because not many people get to do that and that was one of my goals in high school, to play as soon as I got to college,” Quinn said.
Monmouth finishes the season with a record of 14-21 (10-8 MAAC).
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics