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Sports

Men's B-Ball Surges Down Stretch

MBB 02.26.20Monmouth men’s basketball shined down the stretch in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play this past week with back-to-back victories over Marist on the road and Quinnipiac at home.

Friday’s nail-biter against the Red Foxes was the first overtime game of the season for the Hawks as they barely pulled out the defensive affair 65-61. It was the junior guard Ray Salnave who led the troops with a team-high 13 points on a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line as well as six rebounds.

Some of those free throws came in the clutch late in the second half to force overtime after drawing the foul on a pump fake.

“It was obvious that we needed a three to tie and I think the other player knew I was going to shoot a three,” said Salnave. “I knew I had him on his heels because I was driving at him and once he started backing up, I knew he thought I figured I would have enough room to shoot so I gave him a fake, leaned in and got the call.”

It was a very well-rounded performance for the blue and white who had two other scorers in double-figures, junior guard George Papas and junior forward Melik Martin. Papas contributed 12 points, adding five assists and three rebounds while Martin tacked on ten points and four rebounds. This was Martin’s second straight game scoring double digit points as he has been picking up his play down the stretch in the conference schedule.

The Monmouth defense kept Marist under wraps all game long allowing them to shoot only 32.7 percent from the field with only four two-point field goals in the entire game.

“Just another MAAC game,” said head coach King Rice. “The tournaments going to be wild in Atlantic City, everybody should go out and get their tickets because every game goes like this. There are no blowouts, everyone can win on any given night.”

The Hawks went out on Sunday and continued to roll against Quinnipiac with a rare, double digit MAAC victory in a conference that is truly coming down to the wire in one of the closest races in the nation.

Salnave was at the very top of the box score yet again with a team-high 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, adding four rebounds, six assists, and a season-high four steals.

The Hawks really did a phenomenal job of playing together as a team which Coach Rice had been stressing in the games previously. MU had five different players who scored in double figures including 12-point efforts from Martin, junior guard Deion Hammond, and senior guard Louie Pillari off the bench. Pillari drilled a season-high 4-of-6 three pointers while Papas added two of his own to become the fifth player in double figures with ten.

“You see what can happen when we do what we’re supposed to do, and communicate out there,” said Salnave. “We talked a lot early, and our voices helped initiate our defense. We make plays off our defense.”

They certainly shared the wealth which showed in the stat line as Monmouth pieced together just the seventh 20 plus assist game in history under Coach Rice.

At one point the Hawks’ 22-point second half lead was the largest point differential they have had all season over a conference opponent.

“I was so proud of the fight my kids showed right from the beginning,” said Rice. “They hit some threes early, but our defense took care of business the rest of the way.”

With just four regular season games left to play before they head to Atlantic City, Monmouth will travel to Rider on Friday night for a rematch beginning at 9:00 p.m. on ESPNU.

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics

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Monmouth University
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