Friday, March 3, 2017

Monmouth takes center stage in MAAC awards as Robinson, Rice win top player, coach honors

Justin Robinson's dominant senior season was rewarded with second straight MAAC Player of the Year honor. Monmouth's point guard led conference in scoring as Hawks won 16 straight to end regular season. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

ALBANY, NY -- The end game for Justin Robinson and Monmouth is a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship, but the Hawks and their point guard are still racking up additional hardware to add to the West Long Branch trophy case in the interim.

Robinson was officially announced as the MAAC Player of the Year for a second straight season, receiving the award in a unanimous vote as determined by MAAC coaches. He is only the fourth player in conference history to win the award in consecutive seasons, and the first since Luis Flores captured the honor in 2003 and 2004, when he led Manhattan to a pair of MAAC titles and NCAA Tournament appearances.

The main focus of Monmouth's offense during a 26-5 regular season that concluded with 16 straight wins, Robinson led the MAAC in scoring with 19.7 points per game, averaging over four assists per game as well and shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Head coach King Rice added to the haul for the Hawks, winning his second straight Coach of the Year award after leading Monmouth to the MAAC's first-ever 18-win league season in men's basketball history. Rice is the third coach to win this honor back-to-back, joining former La Salle coach Speedy Morris and Iona's Tim Welsh, who was the last to accomplish this feat when he was voted top coach in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Monmouth also swept honors for top reserves, as Austin Tilghman was named Sixth Man of the Year for his efforts as the first man off the bench for a deep Hawks roster, often contributing a workmanlike showing in the process. Senior guard Tyese Purvis was named Women's Sixth Player of the Year after averaging 10.1 points per game off the bench to end the regular season as the Hawks' second-leading scorer.

Women's Player of the Year honors stayed in New Jersey, as Rider senior Robin Perkins took home the recognition after leading Rider's resurgence by averaging 15.5 points per game and being the sole unanimous first team All-MAAC selection in the conference. Her head coach, Lynn Milligan, picked tenth in the MAAC preseason poll, completed the renaissance by being named Coach of the Year. In her tenth season at the helm, Milligan guided the Broncs to a 22-7 record and 16 conference wins, good enough for a runner-up finish, one game behind regular season champion Quinnipiac.

Saint Peter's senior guard Chazz Patterson saw his suffocating defense pay off in being named the MAAC's Defensive Player of the Year. The senior from Browns Mills, New Jersey, praised by head coach John Dunne for his glove-like lockdown defense, is the first guard to receive this award since Niagara's Anthony Nelson in 2010-11. Siena's Jackie Benitez captured the same recognition on the women's side. The sophomore, second in the MAAC in scoring, supplemented her offense with a MAAC-leading 86 steals.

Quinnipiac's Mikey Dixon completed a stellar freshman campaign by securing the Rookie of the Year nod after finishing sixth in the conference in scoring. For the women, Marist freshman Rebekah Hand became the third player under Brian Giorgis to be named top rookie in the league, joining program greats Rachele Fitz and Erica Allenspach as recipients since the ten-time MAAC champion coach assumed the reins of the program in 2002.

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