By Jaden Daly (@jadendaly) and Vincent Simone (@VTSimone)
The first installment of MAAC Monday in the new decade, and second of the season, is presented in its usual three-segment form, but we decided to try something new moving forward. The stat leaders and weekly power rankings will continue to be presented in their usual spots, but to raise the curtain this season, we will lead things off with a recap of whatever game(s) Jaden and/or Vinny covered during the week, along with our team spotlights that debuted last season. With that said, Jaden was in New Jersey Sunday afternoon to get a closer look at Monmouth and Iona, the two teams that will baptize our weekly recap for the first time in 2020:
After failing to hold a late lead on the road Friday against Siena, Monmouth returned home Sunday afternoon looking to hold serve against four-time defending MAAC champion Iona, a team in search of a victory to right its own ship after watching a 17-point advantage evaporate on its home floor Friday night against Saint Peter’s.
The hosts would not be denied on this day, as the Hawks led from the start and were able to hold Iona at bay throughout the afternoon, with Monmouth getting the better of the Gaels in a convincing 73-61 decision at the OceanFirst Bank Center.
“I think our kids just had the right amount of energy today,” head coach King Rice said as Monmouth (7-6, 1-1 MAAC) evened its conference record by forcing Iona into an un-Iona-like 21 turnovers, 14 of which were committed in the first half. “We just stayed focused on the things we talked about doing before the game.”
“If we decided we were going to dwell on the Siena loss, we probably would have ended up losing the game today because guys wouldn’t have the right mindset,” Ray Salnave added. “But luckily, that’s not what happened. We came out ready to play today.”
An atypical game between the Hawks and Gaels, Sunday’s affair did not provide the fireworks of the past such as A.J. English's offensive duels with Justin Robinson, or the postgame fracas between Chris Brady and Jordan Washington. Rather, it was largely dominated by Monmouth’s lockdown defense, which established itself in the opening minutes as Marcus McClary rendered E.J. Crawford into a non-factor in the first half.
“Our defense is getting better,” Rice stated, appraising the Hawks’ efforts with the basketball not in their hands. “We’ll run at you. It’s just a lot of people don’t do it like we’re doing it, but our guys really guarded and we really got after them, and it was awesome to see.”
“The one thing I wanted to see was if we were going to come out after the tough loss the other night and how hard we’d play,” acting Iona head coach Tra Arnold said as he continues to fill in for Tim Cluess, who remains sidelined with an undisclosed health issue. “I at least thought we competed today to a point, but anytime you turn the ball over 14 times in one half and 21 times in a game, it’s going to be hard to win and hard to overcome.”
Without Cluess steering the ship, the Gaels (2-7, 0-2 MAAC) are noticeably different on the floor, but that does not suggest that the perennial MAAC kingpin is in complete disarray. While Iona’s head coach has not had an active role in games, he has remained very much involved in day-to-day program operation, and his players have attempted to soldier on in the process.
“He keeps in contact with us all the time,” Asante Gist said of Cluess following Iona's loss to Princeton on December 17. “Coach Arnold does a great job with us, and everything will work itself out. I’m not worried at all.”
As for Monmouth, which welcomes a winless-in-MAAC-play Canisius squad to West Long Branch Friday night, the emergence of Nikkei Rutty as a reliable option in the interior is a situation to monitor moving forward, especially after receiving more minutes than Mustapha Traore and showing that he could be more than just a change-of-pace big man off the bench.
“His confidence is really going up on offense,” Rice said of Rutty, who contributed nine points and a team-best six rebounds to Sunday’s winning cause. “He’s super athletic, and now his jump hook is starting to happen. He’s adding to his game. Nikkei’s always been a great defender, he’s the reason that I decided to switch one through five, but now you’re starting to see him find his voice in our locker room. Nikkei will tell you if you’re not doing the right stuff. We need that sometimes.”
1) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (17.2 PPG)
2) E.J. Crawford, Iona (16.9)
3) Jalen Pickett, Siena (16.2)
4) Deion Hammond, Monmouth (15.9)
5) Elijah Burns, Siena (15.2)
6) Donald Carey, Siena (14.8)
7) Tajuan Agee, Iona (14.8)
8) James Towns, Niagara (14.5)
9) Landon Taliaferro, Fairfield (14.4)
10) Stevie Jordan, Rider (14.3)
1) Kevin Marfo, Quinnipiac (13.5 RPG)
2) Manny Camper, Siena (11.6)
3) Tyere Marshall, Rider (9.8)
4) Tajuan Agee, Iona (7.6)
5) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (6.7)
6) Elijah Burns, Siena (6.4)
7) Tykei Greene, Manhattan (6.4)
8) Frederick Scott, Rider (6.3)
9) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (6.2)
10) Mustapha Traore, Monmouth (6.2)
1) Malik Johnson, Canisius (5.8 APG)
2) Jalen Pickett, Siena (4.3)
3) Stevie Jordan, Rider (4.3)
4) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (4.2)
5) Isaiah Washington, Iona (3.4)
6) Samuel Chaput, Monmouth (3.3)
7) Ray Salnave, Monmouth (3.2)
8) Marcus Hammond, Niagara (3.1)
T-9) Tajuan Agee, Iona (3.0)
T-9) Asante Gist, Iona (3.0)
T-9) Samir Stewart, Manhattan (3.0)
Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Elijah Burns, Siena (.600)
2) Tyere Marshall, Rider (.559)
3) Tajuan Agee, Iona (.553)
4) Greg Kuakumensah, Niagara (.552)
5) Vincent Eze, Fairfield (.549)
6) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (.488)
7) James Towns, Niagara (.479)
8) Manny Camper, Siena (.471)
9) Frederick Scott, Rider (.467)
10) Scott Hitchon, Canisius (.465)
Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Deion Hammond, Monmouth (.867)
2) Donald Carey, Siena (.864)
3) Ray Salnave, Monmouth (.847)
4) E.J. Crawford, Iona (.839)
5) James Towns, Niagara (.833)
6) Stevie Jordan, Rider (.810)
7) Elijah Burns, Siena (.804)
8) Taj Benning, Fairfield (.791)
9) Scott Hitchon, Canisius (.789)
10) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (.786)
Three-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Doug Edert, Saint Peter’s (.510)
2) Matthew Lee, Saint Peter’s (.464)
3) Matt Herasme, Marist (.447)
T-4) Louie Pillari, Monmouth (.440)
T-4) Ray Salnave, Monmouth (.440)
6) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (.416)
7) Frederick Scott, Rider (.412)
8) Scott Hitchon, Canisius (.406)
9) Jacob Rigoni, Quinnipiac (.403)
10) Daryl Banks III, Saint Peter’s (.395)
1) Malik Johnson, Canisius (2.8 SPG)
2) Stevie Jordan, Rider (2.2)
3) Isaiah Washington, Iona (1.9)
4) Ray Salnave, Monmouth (1.8)
5) Christian Hinckson, Manhattan (1.7)
Blocked Shot Leaders
1) KC Ndefo, Saint Peter’s (2.3 BPG)
2) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (1.5)
3) Tajuan Agee, Iona (1.3)
T-4) Jalen Pickett, Siena (1.3)
T-4) Seth Pinkney, Quinnipiac (1.3)
1) Rider (8-4, 2-0 MAAC)
Last Week: 1
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 vs. Siena (W 85-77)
Next Game: Tuesday 1/7 at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.
2) Siena (6-6, 2-1 MAAC)
Last Week: 2
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 at Rider (L 85-77)
Next Game: Thursday 1/9 vs. Saint Peter’s, 7 p.m.
3) Monmouth (7-6, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week: 3
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 vs. Iona (W 73-61)
Next Game: Friday 1/10 vs. Canisius, 7 p.m.
4) Manhattan (6-5, 2-0 MAAC)
Last Week: T-6
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 at Niagara (W 67-62)
Next Game: Friday 1/10 at Fairfield, 7 p.m.
T-5) Quinnipiac (6-5, 1-0 MAAC)
Last Week: 4
Last Game: Thursday 1/3 at Marist (W 63-58)
Next Game: Tuesday 1/7 vs. Rider, 7 p.m.
T-5) Saint Peter’s (5-6, 2-0 MAAC)
Last Week: T-9
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 vs. Marist (W 66-40)
Next Game: Thursday 1/9 at Siena, 7 p.m.
T-7) Fairfield (5-8, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week: 5
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 at Canisius (W 46-42)
Next Game: Wednesday 1/8 vs. Marist, 7 p.m.
T-7) Iona (2-7, 0-2 MAAC)
Last Week: 8
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 at Monmouth (L 73-61)
Next Game: Friday 1/10 at Rider, 7 p.m.
9) Niagara (3-10, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week: T-9
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 vs. Manhattan (L 67-62)
Next Game: Friday 1/10 at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.
10) Canisius (5-9, 0-3 MAAC)
Last Week: T-6
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 vs. Fairfield (L 46-42)
Next Game: Friday 1/10 at Monmouth, 7 p.m.
11) Marist (1-11, 0-3 MAAC)
Last Week: 11
Last Game: Sunday 1/5 at Saint Peter’s (L 66-40)
Next Game: Wednesday 1/8 at Fairfield, 7 p.m.