MBB In Midst of Rough Patch Before CAA Tournament

After Hofstra snapped Monmouth’s win streak, the Hawks were eager to get themselves back in the win column as they faced Northeastern on Thursday, Feb. 16 in Boston.

Monmouth started off strong, something they lacked in a few of their previous matchups. With 13:12 left on the clock, the Hawks built a four point lead after a timely three-pointer from freshman Jack Collins. The Huskies promptly responded with an 11-0 run and kept the lead for the remainder of the first half. Some sloppy execution from Monmouth and great play by Northeastern put the home team up 44-22 going into halftime.

Northeastern headed to the locker room with a comfortable lead and maintained their high standard of play throughout the second half. The Hawks attempted to launch a comeback but saw little success as they never came within 15 points of the home team. Despite the loss, junior forward Klemen Vuga followed up his previous 29 point effort with another 23 against the Huskies and was a key player for Monmouth in this matchup. This brought Vuga to 10 total games with double-digit points this season.

The Husky defense forced nine turnovers from Monmouth, making the desired comeback for the Hawks just out of reach. Head Coach King Rice saw his team respond in the right way, but it was too little too late. “It definitely wasn’t our night, but that was because of Northeastern. You don’t make any excuses,” Rice said.

Monmouth managed to chip away at Northeastern’s 22 point halftime lead, outscoring the Huskies 40-33 in the second half. Ultimately, the slow first half proved too much to overcome in the loss.

After an inconsistent performance in Boston, the Hawks returned to West Long Branch on Saturday, Feb. 18 to face Elon on Senior Day in the OceanFirst Bank Center. Prior to the start of the game Monmouth honored their lone senior, Jarvis Vaughan, who made his first start of the season against the visiting Phoenix. Coming off a loss to Charleston, Elon came into the game just as hungry for a win as Monmouth.

The Hawks started off strong thanks to a commendable effort from Collins, who netted the first three-pointer of the day at 19:15. The Hawks led in the early stages of the game, but Elon kept things close by limiting the Hawks’ lead to four points or less in its duration.

The tables turned towards the end of the first half, and the Phoenix climbed into the drivers’ seat with a 9-2 run to go up 32-25. The Hawks answered with a couple of successful fast breaks, coming back to lead 37-35 with a little over two minutes left in the period. Monmouth was unable to sustain their successful run and Elon brought their lead back to eight when the buzzer hit for the break.

The Hawks came out of the half strong and scored an important three-pointer right off the bat, again by the hands of Collins. Elon seemed to take their foot off the gas early in the second half, but sadly for the Hawks that did not hold true. The Phoenix built their lead up to 12 points effortlessly, seemingly in no time at all. The Hawks fought hard to get back in the game but found it more than challenging to guard the visitors, while being unfortunate on offense themselves for the majority of the second half.

With 28 seconds left, the Hawks climbed back within five after a needed three-pointer from Jakari Spence, giving the home crowd a little bit of hope. Fans stood behind their team with full support, but the game sadly would not end in the Hawks’ favor as they dropped their final home game of the season, 75-68.

“Credit to our fans. We’ve had one of the hardest years since I’ve been here and credit to them that they kept coming out the way they did this season and supported our young men and supported our staff,” said Rice. “We take our hats off to all the Monmouth fans for coming out on a Saturday and supporting these kids the way they need to be supported.”

Monmouth will return to CAA play on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at Hampton University for their penultimate regular season game.