Monmouth Clinches MAAC Regular Season Title with 77-68 win over Niagara
The Monmouth men’s basketball team secured the 2015-16 MAAC regular season title outright with a 77-68 win over Niagara Sunday afternoon at The MAC.
It is the programs first regular season championship since the 2004-05 season, as MU was led by Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, NY/Kingston)’s 25 points and 16 rebounds from freshman Diago Quinn (New York City, NY/Lake Forest Academy [IL]). MU finishes the regular season as the top seed in the MAAC at 25-6, 17-3 in conference and 10-1 at home. Niagara will be the #10 seed, ending at 7-24 and 5-15 in the league.
“It’s not always going to be pretty, but we got it done,” said head coach King Rice. “Monmouth University is the regular season champs, and it feels good.”
Niagara was able to cut the Monmouth lead to two with 2:58 remaining, and had the ball down three but Monmouth forced a turnover and Chris Brady (Greenlawn, NY/Harborfields) hit a hook to extend it to five. The Hawks put in six-of-six foul shots down the stretch to secure the nine-point win.
The Hawks led by as many as 12 in the second half, doing so on a Robinson foul shot with 8:59 to go. Niagara cut it to eight but Micah Seaborn (Fort Worth, TX/Prime Prep Academy) answered with a three at 6:49 to make it 66-55. Niagara went on a 6-0 run to make it a five-point deficit, including four free throws after a technical foul before MU hit late foul shots.
MU came out of the locker room up seven and got it to 10 on Robinson’s three at 18:17. A Quinn layup make it 53-41 at the 13:41 mark, and MU led by double-digits until a Marvin Prochet triple cut it to seven at 12:38. Robinson got those points back with a long three-pointer on the next possession, and later hit a trio of free throws to make it a 10-point edge again.
Monmouth took a 38-31 lead into the half, propelled by four Je’lon Hornbeak (Arlington, TX/Grace Prep [Oklahoma]) threes in the opening 20 minutes. With MU down 22-20 at 8:14, the junior hit from left of the circle, and Collin Stewart (Greenville, NY/Mekeel Christian Academy) hit Austin Tilghman (Wilmington, DE/Archbishop Carroll [PA]) on a perfect lead following a steal to put MU up three. The score remained 25-22 for 3:36 before Hornbeak hit two with a Robinson layup in between. Niagara cut it back to six with 1:40 to go but Stewart closed the half with five points including a triple and a pair of foul shots to give Monmouth a seven-point lead at the half.
The opening 12 minutes featured 10 lead changes, with neither team leading by more than three. Hornbeak got the scoring started with one from range, and the teams traded leads until he put MU up at the 8:14 mark.
Robinson led MU with 25 points and four assists, while Hornbeak and Stewart both added 12. Quinn grabbed 16 rebounds, the most for a Hawk since Phill Wait against Hartford on 12/10/10 and the most by a Hawk this season. Monmouth’s bench outscored the Purple Eagles 26-10 and MU won in points in the paint 28-14.
Prochet registered a double-double of 10 points and 13 boards, while Emile Blackman netted 22 and Dominic Robb had 13.
Monmouth opens MAAC Tournament play on Friday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY. MU will take on the winner of the #8/#9 game played Thursday, and will tip at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN3.