The Monmouth Hawks are introduced at the MAC before their game against Siena (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)

A year ago getting a ticket to a Monmouth University men’s basketball game was as simple as walking up to the box office a couple of minutes before tipoff and purchasing whatever you wanted.

The Multipurpose Activity Center where the Hawks play their home games sits 4,000 fans and more often than not half the seats were empty. Take for example their game with in-state rival St. Peter’s on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 just about one year ago. The announced crowd was 1,275 and my guess is those nice suites they have for groups were pretty empty and finding a spot on press row was not a problem.

In fairness students might have still be on winter break but even when they returned at best the MAC was a bit more than half filled and not usually very loud. Even while the program was starting to show they had turned the corner the fan base had a ways to go. One year later they’ve caught up.

Monday Monmouth welcomed Siena to the MAC and the Martin Luther King holiday matinee drew a sellout crowd, the third in just four home games the Hawks have played to this point. From the introduction of the starting lineups to the very end of what was a 16-point Hawks win the crowd was into it and clearly Coach King Rice’s squad now has a home court advantage. Not only that but there were media everywhere and press row was very tight because Monmouth basketball is not only the talk of the area but the country as well.

If you’re late to the party then you’ve missed quite a bit. With their fifth straight win Monmouth is now 14-4 and in first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. They received votes in the two major national polls this week and have been mentioned as many times on ESPN this season as some of the big boys. While a lot of that is due to their now famous “bench mob” the other part is that this team has players like 5’8 junior guard Justin Robinson who scored 23 points Monday and in the process became the 22nd player in school history to collect 1,000 career points.

Speaking of the bench mob, they were fairly quiet yesterday but that all changed when one of them entered the game in the final moments. Sophomore Dan Pillari of nearby Oceanport hit two long 3-pointers which thrilled his teammates as well as the fans who stayed to the end. Next home game is Sunday (2 p.m.) against Marist. You might want to purchase your tickets in advance.