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Men’s Basketball’s Defensive Woes Roll Into Midseason

In their return from winter break, the Monmouth University men’s basketball team clashed with the College of Charleston and Hampton, dropping both contests by scores of 55-69 and 66-83, respectively.

The Hawks first took on the College of Charleston at home at the OceanFirst Bank Center on Jan. 19, and, despite rolling into halftime with a 31-28 lead, let things slip in the second half and ultimately stumbled to a 55-69 loss. Freshmen guards Andrew Ball and Jack Collins combined for 24 points, with the former potting a career-high 16. Their efforts were complemented by junior forward Myles Foster’s own 15 points.

Senior forward Jarvis Vaughan made his highly anticipated season debut, chipping in two points, two assists, and two rebounds in 11 minutes of action. In addition, junior guard Jakari Spence dished out a career-best six assists, but was held off the scoresheet. Reyne Smith led the charge for Charleston with a monstrous 27 point effort, the majority of which came from long range on 7-10 three-point shooting.

Head Coach King Rice was ho-hum after the loss, only offering a short comment: “I’m happy that my kids battled. We’re getting better. We have to keep working and we’ll finish stronger than we started.”

In their next game against Hampton on Jan. 21 on the University’s Accepted Students Day, the Hawks once again kept things close but were unable to bridge the gap quickly enough, falling by a score of 83-66. Foster and Collins again paced the team in scoring, combining for 40 points, and Foster’s 22 points is now a career-high for him. Junior forward Klemen Vuga was the only other Hawk to score in double-digits. This was the fifth time Vuga has done so this season.

The Hawks went into halftime down 41-30 but played a cleaner second half, scoring 36 to Hampton’s 42, but despite the improved effort still added to their losing skid. The Hawks will have another crack at Hampton in their penultimate game of the 2022-23 regular season at the Convocation Center in Hampton, VA on Feb. 23.

Foster’s career-high 22 points became his second 20-point effort of the season, and it also marked the fourth time this season a Hawks player has scored 20 points or better. In addition to points, Foster also notched a career-high in steals in the game with three. Spence matched Foster with three of his own, tying his personal best. Collins continued his impressive debut season with a new career-best nine rebounds and has also now scored in double-digits nine times this season – nearly half of the games the team has played this season.

Coach Rice seemed less than pleased with his squad’s effort against Hampton, but nonetheless gave Hampton their flowers. “Give Hampton all the credit,” Rice remarked. “Two teams without a win in the league and they came in and did what they had to do. Right from the beginning, our intensity was down and their kids got going.”

After what was, in all likelihood, a get-right game for the Hawks, and a missed opportunity, the team will head down to North Carolina to take on UNC Wilmington on Jan. 26, and their first of two remaining matchups with North Carolina A&T on Jan. 28 to close out their month of January.

Including his efforts against Charleston and Hampton, Foster has now scored 10 or more points in eight consecutive games, dating back to the Hawks’ Dec. 22 matchup against Yale at the OceanFirst Bank Center. In their road loss against Towson on Jan. 14, the Hawks were flawless from the free throw line for the first time all season.

The Hawks come into the week riding an 11-game losing streak, dating back to their Dec. 10 loss to Princeton. Their most recent and only win of the season came in the form of a 76-69 win over Manhattan on Dec. 4. Each of Monmouth’s last seven games have been against conference opponents, and losing all seven has seen Monmouth placed last in the CAA conference. Monmouth and Elon are both 0-7 in the conference, but Elon’s 2-18 overall record has them placed one spot ahead of the Hawks. Hampton’s win against Monmouth was their first conference win of the year, while Charleston’s win against Monmouth only continued their dominance as they now boast a flawless 9-0 conference record to pair with a 21-1 record overall. Monmouth’s 1-19 overall record is currently the worst record in NCAA Division I competition, and during their 11-game losing streak, the team has not lost by fewer than 11 points. Each of the Hawks’ remaining 11 regular season games will be against CAA opponents, representing a last-gasp opportunity to make some traction in the CAA standings before the CAA Tournament kicks off on Mar. 3