Monday, January 18, 2016

Monmouth wins fifth straight with convincing takedown of Siena, Manhattan up next

Deon Jones scored 16 of his 21 points in second half in Monmouth's 85-69 win over Siena. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ -- On the heels of as emotional a win as they have picked up this season, a potential hangover for Monmouth would not have been considered surprising.

For those who made up a sellout crowd at the Multipurpose Activity Center, the Hawks made sure such a bounce would not be a concern Monday afternoon.

Fresh off a 110-102 win that ended Iona's 26-game home winning streak, Monmouth (14-4, 6-1 MAAC) got right back on the accelerator, starting each half on a 15-2 run en route to a thorough 85-69 dismantling of fellow top-tier MAAC squad Siena (11-7, 4-3 MAAC) for the Hawks' fifth straight win, matching a season-long streak.

"I'm really proud of my team because it's been a little bit emotional around here for a couple of days," head coach King Rice said of today's matinee victory, which moved Monmouth into sole possession of the MAAC lead. "They came back and had a great effort out there today. I just thought our whole team really fought and stayed focused on the task at hand, and once again, we were fortunate enough to get a win."

Leading all scorers was Justin Robinson, who followed a career-high 29-point outing against Iona Friday evening with 23 this afternoon. The junior point guard added to the stellar effort by eclipsing the 1,000-point threshold for his career, a feat he accomplished on a layup with 4:25 remaining in the first half.

"It means a lot getting it in college my junior year," said Robinson of the significant milestone. "I didn't get it in high school. They didn't tell me how many career points I had in high school until about three games left in my career, and by that time, it was too late."

In addition to Robinson, Deon Jones complemented his all-MAAC teammate with 21 points, including 16 after halftime in a performance Rice praised after the game.

"I thought Deon took over in the second half once he slowed down a little bit," the coach assessed. "We made some calls for him, because he's so dangerous with the ball in his hands."

Siena responded to Monmouth's opening salvo, going on a 22-8 run capped off by five straight points from Nico Clareth; whose 15 points led the way for the visitors in the losing effort, to take a 26-23 lead with 5:19 remaining in an opening stanza where the Saints outrebounded Monmouth, 28-15, on the glass. The Hawks would respond, however, taking the lead for good on a pair of free throws by Collin Stewart shortly thereafter, and brought a 41-36 cushion into the locker room.

Coming out of the intermission, Monmouth made six of its first nine shots during the second 15-4 spurt, with Jones accounting for seven points in the stretch. A three-pointer by Micah Seaborn made it 56-40 with 15:13 to play, giving the Hawks a comfortable margin they retained the rest of the way, not letting Siena draw any closer than eight points.

"The last four minutes summed it up," Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos surmised. "When we do a little one-on-one, we're not so good. They're better at that. My message was 'be tough with the ball, value the possessions.' We ended up with 21 turnovers, we can't do that. We're not that good individually to do it. They were tougher than us today, and you can write that. Monmouth out-toughed us today and that's okay, because we're learning from it."

When asked about a potential letdown following Friday's marquee victory, Rice denied any thought of that being a factor.

"Not at all," he stated, "and the reason is because of these kids. They keep showing up every single day. They show up, they give an honest effort. If we keep their minds and bodies fresh, we're going to be a tough team to beat."

Next up for Monmouth is a matchup with two-time reigning MAAC champion Manhattan on the road Thursday night, a team the Hawks have yet to beat since joining the conference in 2013. A win over the Jaspers would go a long way toward making an emphatic statement in Monmouth's three-game gauntlet against the conference's top teams, but just getting a league win is what matters more to this bunch.

"We don't try to look at any one (game) more important than the next," Robinson intimated. "We just know that when it's all said and done, every win in our league is vital. We're just going to approach the game the way we have the last two, just go in there and play Monmouth basketball, and not do anything different."

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