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Xander Rice’s Buzzer-Beater Assists Hawks to 11th Consecutive Home Win

Monmouth University’s Men’s Basketball soars with Xander Rice’s buzzer-beater as they win their 11th consecutive home game. 

On Thursday, Feb. 15, Monmouth played on their home court where they won against Campbell with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from guard #21 Xander Rice. In the first half, the battle started as Monmouth took the lead by as much as six with points from Rice, forward #25 Nikita Konstantynovskyi, forward #2 Jaret Valencia, and forward #35 Klemen Vuga. Campbell was able to tie at ten minutes with 20-20. Campbell took the lead at around the eighth minute when the Fighting Camels started to build a lead of around 10 into the final minutes of the first half. A 7-0 run with points from guard #13 Jack Collins, Rice, forward #3 Jakari Spence, and forward #23 Cornelius Robinson, Jr., helped the Hawks close the first half down by three.

In the second half, the Fighting Camels were still in the lead, but after three good three-pointers from Rice, the Hawks were able to regain the lead. A dunk and layup from Valencia made the lead six, and two layups from Doyle and one from Collins helped further the lead by ten. 

Monmouth remained in the lead until around the last minute of the game. With 15 seconds left, the Fighting Camels were leading by five, 85-80. A good jumper by Robinson helped lessen the lead to three, which further condensed Campbell’s lead to one with a three-pointer made by Rice. After a 30-second time-out called at 00:09 and two free throws from Campbell, the score was now 87-85, Camels. As the battle on the court intensified, so did the Hawks. The fans hung to the edge of their seats as the last seconds of the game played out. Rice soared down the court to score the game-winning three-pointer with just 00:02 left to go, making the score 88-87, Monmouth. 

In a post-game interview with “The Outlook,” Rice explained a little of what was going inside his head as the final seconds of the game approached. Rice said, “I knew I would probably have time for one or two dribbles, the main thing I was focused on was trying to get a good look on the rim, I didn’t want the time to run out while I was shooting, so I knew I was going to take one or two dribbles and get to my spot and luckily it went in.”

Rice scored a career-high 37 points, his fourth 30-point game this season. His 37 points are the 11th most points in a game in program history. Rice also made eight three-pointers, the fifth Hawk in program history to make eight or more threes in one game. Valencia scored double figures, his eighth time this season, as well as blocked four shots for the fifth time this year.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, Monmouth hosted Stony Brook where Monmouth Basketball celebrated alumni. It was in this game the Hawks won 84-61. In the first half, it was back and forth, with Monmouth leading by six after points from Rice, Konstantynovskyi, and Valencia. This was returned by Stony Brook going on a 7-0 run, giving them a lead of 14-13 at 13:26. With points from Collins and Robinson, the score was 20-16 when Vuga made two good free throws to make it 22-16 at 11:10. Robinson began an 8-0 run with six of his points, and when Stony Brook got within two, the Hawks ended the half on an 8-2 run fueled almost entirely by Konstantynovskyi to take an eight-point advantage into the half.

As the second half began, the Hawks took flight with a 24-6 run. Earning points with three-pointers from Collins, Valencia, and guard #1 Abdi Bashir, Jr., and nine points from Konstantynovskyi. The team then gained a 21-point advantage at 5:15 from Robinson’s personal 6-0 run. The Hawks were able to keep the lead of more than 20 points throughout the second half, helping them win against the Seawolves. This game proved to be a historical day for Konstantynovskyi.

Konstantynovskyi’s 22 points and 20 rebounds made him the sixth Division I player to have a 20-20 game this season. Konstantynovskyi’s 20 rebounds are the most by a Hawk under Coach King Rice and the most since Corey Albano’s 20 on Feb. 22, 1997, against LIU. His 22 points and 20 rebounds both marked career highs for Konstantynovskyi. This was also the first 20-20 game in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) since Hofstra’s Rokas Gustys on Feb. 15, 2018.

Robinson scored a career-high 16 points, and Collins scored in double figures, his fourth time in five games. This game also marked assistant Coach Rick Callahan’s 1,300th career college basketball game that he’s coached. 

Monmouth will next visit Towson where they will play Thursday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m.