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WEST LONG BRANCH – King Rice wasn’t sure his Monmouth University Men’s Basketball team deserved to win its game Friday night against Quinnipiac and for every single second of regulation, the scoreboard agreed with him.

His four seniors, however, didn’t care what their coach thought or the scoreboard said.

Monmouth did not take a single lead during the first 40 minutes Friday night at OceanFirst Bank Arena, but walked out a winner thanks to a last-second shot by senior Marcus McClary that send the game into overtime and a dominant final five minutes to close out a 92-80 win over the Bobcats.

“I feel like they outplayed us the whole day,” Rice said. “Somehow, we come back and steal that game. I told my kids, it’s easy to come back against somebody, but it’s hard come all the way back and be able to win. Our kids did that tonight.”

Monmouth’s four senior starters each scored in double-figures, led by a career effort from Melik Martin. The 6-foot-7 senior posted a game-high 23 points to go with eight rebounds, hit two crucial three-pointers in the final 5:07 of the game and capping his scoring with a go-ahead three-point play with 2:49 left in overtime to give Monmouth its first lead.

Marcus McClary MBB Monmouth vs. Canisius 12-28-2020 KS
Monmouth senior Marcus McClary. (Photo Courtesy: Karlee Sell/Monmouth Athletics)

“It’s seniors doing senior things,” Rice said. “When you’re a senior, you’re confident in what coach is doing and what we want and you can really relax and play. Melik, leading up to the season, he was probably the best player in practice on a daily basis. When Melik is just playing a solid game, Melik can do everything on the court.”

Martin also assisted the biggest shot of the game. With his team trailing, 73-71, and 6.8 seconds left, Martin caught an inbound pass from fellow senior George Papas near midcourt, calmly dribbled to the three-point line, then kicked to the left baseline. McClary spotted up from 12 feet and drilled the tying shot with the clock showing 0.1.

“Coach called a play for Melik to come get the ball and to make a play,” McClary said. “He trusted his teammates. He trusted me and I hit the shot.”

“I saw Marc open and I hit him,” Martin said. “It’s that simple. It’s team basketball. Our guys are highly capable so I trusted him to make the shot and he hit that jumper.”

The officials restored the clock to 0.6 seconds and Quinnipiac threw away the ensuing inbound pass, giving Monmouth a chance to win the game in regulation. Senior Deion Hammond caught the inbound from Papas and shot it in one motion, but the shot hit the front rim.

Hammond’s miss to end regulation turned out to be a footnote once Martin’s three-point play put Monmouth ahead. McClary (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists) added a three to stretch the lead to 85-79 and Hammond put the game away by shooting 7-for-8 from the foul line over the final minute to ice the game.

Hammond finished with 21 points, making up for 5-for-21 shooting from the floor with a 9-for-11 showing from the free-throw line. Papas added 16 points and came up with two big steals during Monmouth’s final push over the final four minutes.

George Papas MBB Monmouth vs. Quinnipiac 1-15-2021 KS
Monmouth senior George Papas. (Photo: Karlee Sell/Monmouth Athletics)

Quinnipiac led by 12 points – its largest lead of the game – with nine minutes to go, by nine, 64-55, at the four-minute mark and 72-64 with just 1:30 to go. Papas hit a pair of free throws to pull Monmouth within six and Melik Martin took over from there. He stole the ball and fed McClary for a layup that cut the deficit to 72-68, then knocked down a three-pointer with 6.8 seconds left that made it 72-71.

After missing the front-end of a 1-and-1 with 14 seconds left, Quinnipiac’s Jacob Rigoni missed the first of two free throws before making the second, which gave the Bobcats a two-point lead but also gave Monmouth a chance to inbound the ball. Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy decided to take a timeout to set up his defense and Rice took advantage by devising the play that extended the game.

“We tried to get is spaced out and then we had a bunch of options,” Rice said. “We would have been cool with Melik driving also. Melik faked like he was going to go, Marcus kept moving, he’s wide open, (7-foot-1 center) Seth Pinkney got very close to blocking it, and it goes in.”

All told, over the final 6:30 of Friday’s game, Monmouth outscored Quinnipiac, 28-8, to close out the win.

Monmouth’s late outburst was a far cry from the first 12 minutes of the game, during which the Falcons scored just 12 points. The defense kept them close and Monmouth pulled with 35-28 by halftime.

“Their plan was incredible,” Rice said. “They had us messed up for 38-and-a-half minutes.”

Monmouth and Quinnipiac will lock horns again on Saturday, 5 p.m. at OceanFirst Bank Center, with the Hawks going for their third home sweep during the MAAC regular season.

“I don’t feel like we deserved the outcome of this game with how we played today,” Rice said “We were lucky to get the win. It’s my job to make it better tomorrow and I’m going to be working to get that done.”


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