Men’s Basketball began their season 1-1 with two road matchups as they won against Lehigh 66-62 at the Stabler Arena on Tuesday and fell to Hofstra 94-74 on Saturday at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex.
In their first game of the season, the Hawks faced off against Lehigh at their home court. Senior guard Louie Pillari scored eight straight points in the game including two three pointers which was part of a 15-0 run the Hawks went on in the first half. Monmouth was in control early and held a 16-point lead at one point in the contest.
Lehigh was able to go on a run in the second half however and get themselves right back into the game. They made it a one-point game with just 4:16 remaining. Junior guard Ray Salnave, who led the Hawks with 15 points on 39 percent shooting, made two free throws to give the Hawks a three-point cushion. Monmouth then forced a turnover which led to junior guard George Papas connecting on a left wing three shortly followed by Salnave converting a three-point play to make it a nine-point game with only 2:29 left in regulation.
Lehigh was able to trim their deficit to three. They had an opportunity to tie the game in the final moments, but Monmouth’s lockdown defense was able to hold down the win. This is the sixth time the Hawks won their season opener in nine seasons under head coach King Rice and the fourth out of their last five.
“From our first win last year through the end of the season, I think we grew up a lot and now we’re an older team,” said Rice. “We have some nice, new pieces and we have a lot of kids that can come in and get into people defensively.”
Junior guard Deion Hammond contributed 14 points in 21 minutes for the Hawks. He shot 56 percent from the field as well as 57 percent from deep.
Monmouth narrowly outshot Lehigh as the Hawks shot 41 percent from the field while Lehigh shot 40 percent. Lehigh made a late push but strong defense late in the game stopped a possible comeback for them. “I was impressed the most by how together we were and how we stayed like that throughout,” said Hammond. Lehigh fell to 0-1 on the season after their loss.
After winning their season opener the Hawks headed to Hempstead, New York for a Saturday matchup against Hofstra. The Pride came out of the gate rolling as they scored 51 first half points on 60 percent shooting. Salnave drained a three pointer at 11:09 in the first half to give the Hawks an 18-17 lead. After that, Hofstra went on a 15-0 run to make the score 32-18 and found themselves with a 51-24 lead by the end of the half.
Coming out of the locker room, the blue and white lit a spark on offense as they scored the first nine points of the half. The Hawks were able to trim the margin down to 13 points, but Hofstra was able to hold down the Hawks and hand them their first loss of the season.
“That’s how college basketball goes sometimes,” said coach Rice, “We have seven more games in November and then I’ll have a better feel for our team. I knew they would shoot it well; I didn’t think they would shoot 60 percent in the first half. I was proud of our kids for continuing to fight.”
The Hawks were outshot in Saturday’s contest 53 percent to 41 percent and 25 percent to 50 percent from deep. They were also slightly outrebounded 39-34 in the losing effort. The Hawks fell to 1-1 while Hofstra improved to 1-1 after the matchup.
Coming up for the Hawks is a trip to Kansas as they face off against Big 12 opponent Kansas State on Wednesday, Nov. 13th at 8:00 pm. Monmouth will then go up against another Big 12 juggernaut in Kansas University on Friday, Nov 15th at 8:00 pm.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics