Friday, February 3, 2017

Robinson takes over as Monmouth wins ninth straight

Justin Robinson scored last 14 points of regulation en route to game-high 29 as Monmouth needed overtime to win ninth straight contest, holding serve against Saint Peter's. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ -- Justin Robinson eclipsed Monmouth's Division I scoring record the last time he took the court, adding to a list of accolades earned and challenges conquered.

Therefore, the only question that remained Friday night, when the Hawks entertained Saint Peter's at the OceanFirst Bank Center, was that of just what exactly the 5-foot-8 dynamo would do for an encore. Needless to say, what Robinson managed to author in his latest tour de force was nothing short of impressive.

On the ropes against the wily Peacocks and trailing by eight with just over six minutes remaining in regulation, the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year took matters into his own hands once more, singlehandedly forcing overtime by scoring the final 14 points of the second half and amassing 29 markers by the final buzzer, the central figure in Monmouth's 71-70 victory over Saint Peter's.

"I got a couple of easy looks," Robinson said of his one-man rally, which reached its apex during a 10-1 run where his two free throws gave Monmouth (19-5, 11-2 MAAC) a 58-57 lead with 3:21 on the clock in regulation. "I had one from the left wing, an easy look, and then I came down and hit a bomb from the left wing. After that, Coach Rice just kept giving me the green light and saying 'just keep going, keep going.'"

With Je'lon Hornbeak in foul trouble and Micah Seaborn limited due to a sore knee that compromised him to just six points, the Hawks needed Robinson more than ever to defeat a Saint Peter's team that missed its first ten shots from the floor. The Peacocks (12-11, 8-5 MAAC) made up for it soon after, tying the game at 18 on the strength of a 14-2 run aided by Cavon Baker and Sam Idowu; whose 18 and 13-point efforts, respectively, were the standard bearers of offensive production in a losing effort as Monmouth secured their ninth straight win since a January 2 setback to the same Peacocks team at the Yanitelli Center, where John Dunne's team used their trademark stingy defense to lure the Hawks into submission.

Deadlocked at 29 after 20 minutes, the two Garden State rivals traded blows until one of Robinson's four three-pointers gave Monmouth a 44-40 advantage with just over six minutes gone by since the intermission. Saint Peter's would counter with an 11-2 run that put the visitors ahead 51-46 with 9:09 left in the second stanza. Almost two minutes elapsed before a Robinson layup started his climb up the mountain, which ended with another pair of foul shots inside the final minute to give the Hawks a 60-58 cushion. The lead was short-lived, though, as an Antwon Portley jumper tied the score once again. Monmouth had two chances to win at the horn, but Robinson's triple attempt from the right arc misfired, and a Diago Quinn putback attempt under the rim fell off the window to warrant the extra session.

The Hawks led throughout the overtime period, getting on the board first with two free throws by Josh James before a Robinson layup raised the advantage to four points. Saint Peter's would remain within earshot until the buzzer, but the charity stripe decided the outcome as the Peacocks shot 11-of-20 while the home team missed only two of their 14 attempts, an afterthought in the big picture as the night belonged to Robinson, who was honored in an emotional postgame ceremony highlighting his record-setting exploits this past Monday at Marist that was all the more momentous after Friday's latest dose of heroics.

"Justin just does that," head coach King Rice proudly gushed. "And if those other guys are down, Justin's gotta go more. He's so unselfish that he's going to look for other people, and sometimes we just need him to go get the buckets."

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