Monmouth University Mens Basketball return to West Long Branch as victors after securing two conference wins in their Western New York road trip against both Niagara and Canisius.
“We’re leaving Western New York very happy,” said head Coach King Rice, “these guys just love the thought of playing basketball and they get along so well, nobody wants to be the weak link on gameday.”
Coming off a major victory against Cincinnati on the road, the Hawks opened Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) competition with a win over Niagara on Friday night. Monmouth did not lead in the first half until just before two minutes into play when Senior forward Nikkei Rutty took a feed from Walker Miller and converted a two-handed dunk. Niagara controlled the first half, leading 27-25 at the break.
Senior Guards George Papas and Marcus McClary converted consecutive triples to complete a 20-4 run to open the second half. The Hawks took a 14-point lead and were able to stay up by double digits until the final minute of play.
Niagara cut into Monmouth’s lead getting as close as five within the closing minute. The Hawks held up strong, taking full advantage of their foul shot opportunities in the remainder of the game and securing their first MAAC win of the year, 57-49.
“I thought Niagara did some things to mess with us,” said Rice, “George Papas did some incredible things on Marcus Hammond, he’s one of the best players in the league.” Papas ended with 14 points in the contest.
“We know what we can do on offense, we’ll be super patient and if we can take care of our defense everything else will follow,” said Papas. Monmouth limited Niagara to 22 points in the second half. Rutty led Monmouth with 10 rebounds, contributing to their sixth straight win.
From Niagara, the Hawks traveled to Canisius where they completed their road sweep with a 79-65 win on Sunday afternoon. Behind Papas’ first career double-double and a career best 24 points from Miller, Monmouth took their seventh straight win.
“I wanted to set the tone early and try to get in a groove,” said Miller, “I wanted to get back to what I do well.”
Sophomore forward Myles Foster ignited the Hawks in the first half with a bucket to open a 19-0 run. Canisius was kept off the scoreboard completely for over nine minutes. Monmouth built their lead to as large as 24 in the first half, settling for a 21-point lead at the break.
Canisius came out strong in the second half, opening with a 10-0 run. Canisius cut the Hawks lead to within eight several times, however, Monmouth was able to regain a comfortable lead at 16 points midway through the half.
Just before the conclusion of the half, Senior guard Shavar Reynolds converted a three-point play, followed by a three point basket from Miller, which secured a two win weekend for Monmouth in New York.
With these wins, Monmouth opens MAAC play 2-0 for the first time since the 2016-17 season, and third time ever. The Hawks seven game tear is also their first since the 2017 season.
Up next, Monmouth heads to Carnesecca Arena for a Thursday night matchup against Big East foe St. John’s at 8:30 p.m. The game will air on FS1 and on the radio via the Monmouth.
Digital Network. For more news, game updates and information on the team follow Monmouth Mens basketball on twitter @MonmoutBBall.