College Basketball – Martin, Hammond Shine in Monmouth’s Sweep of Manhattan
Even as Melik Martin continues to prove he can knock down open three-pointers, he is still not drawing the full attention of the bigger defenders guarding him.
His message to them?
“I don’t know why they’re hesitant (to come out and guard me) but it’s going to continue to go up and it’s going to continue to go in,” said the 6-foot-7 Martin.
On Saturday night vs. Manhattan at Draddy Gymnasium, Martin wasn’t connecting on his shot like he was one night earlier but he kept his word by keeping his Monmouth University Men’s Basketball team in the game in the first half and knocked down a three at one of the most critical junctures in the game.
Martin hit one of his two three-pointers in overtime, finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists and helped keep Monmouth rolling with a 71-69 overtime win over the Jaspers Saturday night. Paired with Friday’s 70-65 win over Manhattan, Monmouth swept its fourth MAAC double-header series of the season and first on the road.
At 10 wins on the season - all in-conference - Monmouth now leads all MAAC programs in total wins this season.
With his second double-double in the last three games (he had 18 points and nine rebounds in the other game), Martin is averaging 15.6 points and 7.1 rebounds over Monmouth’s last three games. During that stretch, the Hawks have gone 7-1 following a two-game sweep at the hands of Siena that dropped them to 3-4 back on Jan. 4.
“I think this season, I have shown (the coaching staff) a different level,” Martin said. “I showed them that I wanted something and that I’m going to continue to keep striving for that. There are going to be highs and lows every night – I feel like I missed a lot of shots tonight, but we got the win and that’s what it comes down to.”
“Everybody has been calling me about Melik’s play and how great he has been and asking what I have done,” Monmouth coach King Rice said. “I haven’t done anything. Melik is a baller. I think this year, because we’re not able to do all the things we normally do in practice, I have left him alone a little bit just to let him play and not try to control everything he is doing on the floor. By us getting out of the kids’ way, they are showing us all their talents and Melik is just balling. I haven’t seen a lot of the games of the other teams lately, but he has to be one of the better kids in the league.”
Martin shot just 4-for-14 in Saturday’s win, but connected on two of his three three-point attempts, including a straight-on shot from well beyond the line that put Monmouth ahead, 69-65, with 1:37 left in overtime.
With his fourth straight game with at least two three-pointers, Martin is now shooting 40.5 percent from beyond the arc for the season and 48.1 percent (13-for-27) over Monmouth’s last six games.
“I was trying to take good shots,” Martin said. “I don’t want to mess up the game or muck it up. I’m trying to get the best shot for Monmouth. I feel like a lot of those opportunities were good looks.”
For the second straight game, Manhattan rallied in the final minutes to make Monmouth sweat, this time pushing the game into overtime. The Hawks took a 58-48 lead with six minutes left on a record-breaking three-pointer by senior guard Deion Hammond, who passed former Monmouth head coach and 1991 graduate Dave Calloway as the program’s all-time leader in three-point shots made with 261. Hammond finished Saturday with a team-high 15 points.
Consecutive three-pointers by Elijah Buchanan cut Monmouth’s lead to 58-54 with 3:59 left but Monmouth still made into the final minute with a 62-57 lead and had the possession to boot. Martin, however, missed from close range, Warren Williams converted an easy layup off a feed from Ant Nelson and junior guard Samuel Chaput turned the ball over near the Monmouth bench on the Hawks’ next possession.
That gave Manhattan a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer and Sanba Diallo delivered the old-fashioned way. After collecting and offensive rebound, Diallo shoveled a follow-up shot up and in as he was fouled, then converted the free throw with 14 seconds left to tie the game at 62. Senior guard Marcus McClary faced up and took an elbow jumper that missed long on Monmouth’s final possession.
Even after Martin’s three-pointer in overtime, Monmouth still had work to do to put the game away. Williams scored twice to cut Monmouth’s lead to two points – once after Martin’s three and again after senior guard George Papas (12 points, six rebounds) knocked down a pair of free throws with a minute left to make it 71-67.
Martin missed a baseline fadeaway with 18 seconds left to give Manhattan the ball back down, 71-69, but the Hawks held on defense to escape with another win.
While Monmouth led by as many as 10 in the second half, Manhattan took a 25-16 lead in the first half with a 10-0 run thanks to some ice-cold shooting by the Hawks. Monmouth shot just 29.4 percent in the first half but pulled within 32-28 at the break by holding the Jaspers to just 29 percent as well.
It was a 17-5 run in the second half sparked by McClary (11 points, six rebounds) and closed out by Hammond that put Monmouth ahead, 58-48. McClary scored six points and assisted a jumper by sophomore Jarvis Vaughan during the run, while Hammond finished off the burst with five straight points.
Alone at the Top
Hammond entered Saturday needing just one three-pointer to become Monmouth’s all-time leader in made threes for a career and for most of the game, he could not find the mark to but the record behind him.
With the shot clock winding down late in the second half and his team churning out a sizable scoring run, Hammond finally buried the record-setting three and visibly showed his relief as his teammates congratulated him during an ensuing timeout.
“He had a bunch of good looks of good looks tonight,” Rice said. “I was hoping he was going to knock a bunch of them down. He just needed one and we’re super happy because that’s a big-time record to get and maybe it will last for another 30 years.”
Prior to Hammond’s lone three of the game, he had missed his first 10 attempts from beyond the arc and while he finished 1-for-11, he ended on a high note.
“My reaction after that shot had nothing to do with breaking the record,” Hammond said. “I was just happy to hit a shot, for once.”
Calloway – Rice’s predecessor as head coach – was gracious in passing the torch to Hammond.
“Congrats to Deion, great player, better person,” Calloway said. “I know because he was such a good teammate to my son David, who was a walk-on his sophomore season. That is when my son told me ‘Dad, this kid is Deion is good, he’s going to break all your three-point records.’”
“That record stood for 30 years for a reason,” Rice said. “That was incredible that (Calloway) did that, especially before everybody was shooting threes like they are now. It’s a credit to him for putting those numbers on the board and with everything he has done for Monmouth Basketball, we are thankful for Dave Calloway.”
In a full college basketball season, Hammond might have had a chance to climb as high as No. 2 on Monmouth’s all-time scoring list, on which he currently ranks sixth, and still might have an outside shot at climbing that high with a deep postseason run by the Hawks.
Even with the short season, Hammond still pulled his way to the top of the school’s all-time leaderboard in one category and will continue his march toward a spot in the top-five of the all-time scoring list.
“To be able to say I have the record that has stood for 30 years, that’s amazing,” Hammond said.
Twice as Nice
With its win on Friday night, Monmouth improved to 6-1 in the first game of its double-header series in MAAC play this season, but entered Saturday just 3-3 in the second game of the series, including 0-2 on the road.
Rice has been proactive in detailing the rigors of the 2021 conference schedule, which give teams nearly a full week to prepare for the first game of the double-header but less than 24 hours to prepare for game two.
Hammond admitted Saturday night that the schedule is taking its toll on him – Monmouth’s leader at 30.1 minutes per game.
“That’s a pretty tough team out there and I got banged up pretty good,” Hammond said of Manhattan. “My legs got beat up – a coupled contusions, I twisted my ankle a couple of times. I’m just glad I could continue to play. With this break coming up, I’m going to take this time off and heal.”
Fortunately for Hammond and Co., Monmouth will have 12 days off before returning to action on Feb. 19 for a two-game set with Fairfield at OceanFirst Bank Center. It will be Monmouth’s final game in its home gym in 2021, with road trips to Iona and Rider to finish the regular season before the MAAC Tournament gets underway in Atlantic City on March 9.
“All these kids need a break – not just Deion,” Rice said. “My whole team needs a break. The staff needs a break. I have been telling ya’ll, this is the heaviest it has even been. There is stuff going on in people’s families and you can’t be a part of it.
“The smart man in me knows they need a break but the coach in me wants to keep playing. But all of our kids need a break physically and mentally. I just hope it’s not for too long so we can get them back moving and keep it light for them so they can come out and keep performing.”
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