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Men’s Basketball In Midst of Late Season Surge

The big question facing the Monmouth University men’s basketball team this week was whether or not they could continue their winning streak against Stony Brook on Feb. 8 and Hofstra on Feb. 11, respectively. After a tough start to their season, Head Coach King Rice and his team regained their taste for winning after a three-game win streak, having been absolutely rolling since their win against North Carolina A&T on Jan. 28.

Monmouth started off strong against Stony Brook, taking the lead at 16:36 and expanding it to nine points after some strong work on offense from senior Myles Foster. The Hawks let the lead slip through their hands and allowed the Seawolves back in, with the score knotted with 9:51 left on the clock.

Monmouth struggled with their offensive efficiency, while Stony Brook were able to put a lot of pressure on the Hawks’ defense. Monmouth eked into halftime with a one-point lead, but knew this game was far from over.

Monmouth came flying out of the locker room and quickly jumped out to a six-point lead after only 46 seconds of play in the second half. Sophomore guard Tahron Allen continued his hot stretch of games with another very strong performance, especially in the second half, as he logged 22 points in all to pair with six rebounds. Stony Brook tried time and time again to catch up, but Monmouth’s defense smothered them and made it almost impossible for the Seawolves to crawl back into the game. With 10:31 remaining, Foster sank an important three-pointer for an 11-point lead before Stony Brook began to mount their comeback.

As the minutes passed, the Seawolves started to perform better, and with the help of Tyler Stephenson-Moore, they managed to scratch and claw back to only a one-point deficit with a little over three minutes left to play. Unfortunately for Stony Brook, the Hawks kept a cool head and played like a team to the final buzzer, securing a 61-54 win.

After a successful night at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Wednesday, the Hofstra Pride made their way to West Long Branch for another CAA match-up. Hofstra, currently No. 2 in the CAA standings, defeated Northeastern in Boston earlier in the week. Hofstra came in seeking their seventh straight win, while Monmouth looked to extend their win-streak to five games in a row in front of their home audience.

Hofstra started off strong, scoring the first 10 points of the game unanswered through the first five minutes of play. Allen finally put the Hawks on the board, but it unfortunately was not enough to shift the momentum in the Hawks’ favor. Hofstra dominated the first half, and with quick passing and high energy on offense they put Monmouth’s back to the wall. The teams went into halftime with a score of 37-16 in favor of Hofstra.

Monmouth showed some signs of life early in the second half with Foster scoring the first points of the frame, but Hofstra’s lead ultimately proved too great to overcome. The Pride’s Tyler Thomas was the key in the second half, scoring four three-pointers and a total of 14 points.

Allen and Klemen Vuga did all they could to try to jumpstart the Hawks, but Hofstra fought them off comfortably, cruising to a final score of 86-57. Monmouth clearly did not start the game as focused as their opponent did, leading to some disappointment from Coach Rice. “I’m disappointed because we didn’t come today ready, I was surprised because that hasn’t happened in a long time.”

In honor of Black History Month, Monmouth Athletics and the Intercultural Center held a Black History Month Celebration with food for visitors for Monday’s 85-71 win over North Carolina A&T. After a disappointing end to their hot streak with a loss against Hofstra, the Hawks rebounded strongly against North Carolina A&T, firing home 85 points to record yet another CAA win.

Things started off great for the Hawks, who scored 40 first-half points, including 19 of the final 25 of the half, while holding North Carolina to just 29 in total. Monmouth’s young guns continued to showcase their game-to-game growth, with a host of regular contributors posting key statlines, junior forwards Vuga and Foster among them. Vuga threw down a career-high 29 points with Foster adding a complementary 15. The two got some support from freshman guard Jack Collins, who drained a career-high 22 points of his own. Foster’s 15 points marks the 18th time he has scored in double-digits for the Hawks this season alone.

Vuga did not take all the praise, however, for his performance, instead sharing the credit with Coach Rice. Vuga recalled, “We talked in the huddle and Coach Rice kept telling me to go to my right hook and I kept doing that and we got to 29.”

The win was not perfect, though, as North Carolina kept things much closer in the second half with a 42-point effort. A strong Hawks start proved to be the key, with the 11-point halftime deficit proving far too much to overcome in the second half. Monmouth’s 85 points is tied for their most this season, having also done so in an 86-85 loss against Iona on Jan. 18.

Coach Rice was much happier with the team’s effort this time around, highlighting the team’s rallying around each other and getting back to fundamentals. “Tonight, we just tried to focus on playing better defense and competing. It’s been a rough couple of days so I’m glad my kids responded today. We took better care of the ball and I thought we just competed.”

Collins agreed, “We won five of six, we’ve been playing better as a group and getting more confidence. I think we’re really coming together and it’s fun to see.”

After their slow start, the Hawks have now won five out of their last six games. With their latest win, Monmouth has now swept North Carolina A&T this season, marking their first ever CAA sweep of an opponent. Monmouth’s hot streak has seen them jump two places in the CAA standings, leapfrogging both Hampton and upcoming opponent Northeastern, who they will face on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.