Sports

Men’s Basketball Wins Season Opener, 88-84

The University's men's basketball team started its season strong as they went on the road and took down the Hofstra Pride 88-84 on Friday, Nov. 8. Junior transfer Deon Jones led the Hawks in scoring with 22 points and added nine rebounds and two assists.

"I think our kids believed and kept fighting," said third year head coach King Rice. "They stayed together even when we got down, and our young boys really stepped up at critical times tonight."

Hofstra took an early lead when freshman Jamall Robinson made a layup that ignited a 9-4 run for his team, and gave them a 13-9 lead just under six minutes into the game. The Pride maintained their lead as both teams traded baskets through the first part of the half. After MU sophomore forward Tyrone O'Garro scored on a dunk to bring the Hawks back within four points, Hofstra went on another short run, 10-2, to extend their lead to 31-19 with 5:53 remaining in the half.

With just over two minutes left in the first, a three-pointer from Jones cut the Hawks deficit to five, but two more Hofstra buckets increased the lead to 45-36 as the teams headed into halftime.

Two quick scores by the Pride opened the second half and had MU facing its largest deficit of the game with a 49-36 score. However, momentum began to swing in the Hawks favor as 4 straight points from Jones kick started the team, and began a 15-5 run that brought the score to 54-51 at the 12:48 mark. Junior guard Max DiLeo's pair of three point shots and another O'Garro dunk highlighted the run.

After eight straight points, Hofstra managed to increase the lead one more time to 62-51 with ten minutes remaining in the game. The Hawks continued to battle back and scores from Jones, DiLeo, and freshman guard Josh James eventually pulled MU even with the Pride at 63 with 7:36 remaining in the game.

The contest remained close the rest of the way as the lead swung back and forth between the two teams. After the Pride took a 75-72 lead, junior guard Andrew Nicholas hit his fourth three point shot of the game to tie the score, and MU would not trail for the rest of the game. With 2:08 remaining, freshman guard Justin Robinson scored five straight points to push the score to 80-75, and gave the Hawks the lead for good.

As time wound down, Hofstra began fouling MU to try and extend the game, but the blue and white converted their free-throw attempts to pull away and hold onto the lead. Two late three pointers for The Pride made the game seem closer than it actually was in the final minute.

Rice was very happy with his teams performance overall on the night. "Tonight was a great game for Monmouth," he continued. "I'm so proud of these guys. I have been saying this is a special group and tonight they showed it."

In addition to Jones' game high 22 points, four other Hawks scored in double-digits with James scoring 19, Nicholas 13, Robinson 11, and DiLeo 10. O'Garro also chipped in with 8 points and tied for the team lead with 9 rebounds. James and DiLeo both had big second halfs for the team as James scored 15 of his 19 points and DiLeo scored all ten of his points in the final 20 minutes.

On the night, the Hawks shot 30-71, and went 10-26 from downtown. The Pride shot 28-66 total, while hitting 9 of 31 three point shot attempts.

It was a tale of two halves shooting wise for MU. The blue and white struggled a bit from the field in the first half, shooting under 40 percent, but improved greatly in the second half going 17-35 from the floor, just under 50 percent.

During the game, the Hawks saw a mix of returning and new team members play key roles in the victory. While veteran players, such as Nicholas, DiLeo, and O'Garro, all did their part in the victory several players, both freshman and transfers, who had yet to play for MU also contributed to the effort.

"Our young boys really stepped up at critical times tonight," explained Rice. "Josh was getting to the rim, Justin was hitting jumpers and getting people the ball, and I thought Deon was tremendous."

The Hawks will look to improve to 2-0 on Tuesday, Nov. 12 when they welcome the University of Pennsylvania to the MAC for their home opener. MU has not won its first two games of the season since the 2001-2002 campaign.

The men hope to end this streak, but face a tough competitor as Penn nearly defeated a top seeded Temple Owls. Tipoff is set for 7 pm.