Now a two-time MAAC Player of the Year, Justin Robinson and Monmouth begin their tournament journey in quarterfinals against Niagara Friday evening. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
Justin Robinson and King Rice have the individual hardware. Now, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's Player and Coach of the Year begin their quest for the team trophies.
Fresh off becoming back-to-back Player and Coach of the Year recipients, respectively, Robinson and Rice lead Monmouth into the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament against ninth-seeded Niagara at 7 p.m. tonight, taking a 16-game win streak with them.
"I feel like I can play with the best of the best," Robinson said moments after accepting his second straight Player of the Year honor this morning. "That's my plan."
Great players, no matter who they are, command attention and a target from their opponents, and in the wake of Niagara's victory over Quinnipiac Thursday night, one of the Purple Eagles' best defenders wasted little time in declaring his desires in his next matchup.
"I want Justin Robinson," sophomore guard Chris Barton boldly proclaimed. "My mentality is to go out there and attack him, on defense and on offense. I feel like I'm the team's best defender, and I'm going to take that challenge. That's the first thing that's on my mind. If we stop him, I feel like we have a great chance to get that W."
It will take more than Niagara shutting Robinson down to emerge victorious, however. The Hawks possess a cadre of scorers and depth, including newly minted Sixth Man of the Year Austin Tilghman as the first off the bench to supplement the likes of Robinson, Micah Seaborn, Je'lon Hornbeak and Chris Brady. And even with the target on their backs, Monmouth's leader continues to project a coolness under what mortal men would consider pressure.
"Ain't no pressure," a fearless Robinson calmly stated. "Pressure makes diamonds."