Monmouth’s men’s basketball team clinched the 2015-16 MAAC regular season title and the top seed in the 2016 conference tournament with a 79-58 win over Rider Friday at The MAC. Monmouth is now 24-6 and 16-3 in conference, and clinches at least a share of its first regular season title since the 2004-05 season. Rider drops to 11-19, 7-12 in the league.

Listen to the game broadcast at the end of this report

“I think tonight was an amazing night,” said Monmouth Head Coach King Rice, who signed a new five-year agreement earlier Friday. “I’m the luckiest coach to be able to coach the young men in that locker room. It was way too long for Monmouth to be the champs. We got the first one but we’re not done.”

Leading by 12 coming out of halftime, the Hawks outscored Rider 7-0 over the first four-plus minutes, earning a 55-34 advantage at the first media break on two Micah Seaborn (Fort Worth, TX/Prime Prep Academy) baskets. The Broncs tried to climb back in it with a pair of threes but with 6:40 to play, Monmouth held a 69-51 lead. Monmouth opened up a 75-55 lead on Austin Tilghman’s (Wilmington, DE/Archbishop Carroll) 10th point on a take to the rim, eventually winning by a 21-point margin.

Monmouth sprinted out to a 9-0 lead, including a pair of drives by Josh James (Greenburgh, NY/Archbishop Stepinac) and a contested three pointer by Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, NY/Kingston) while the defense kept Rider off the board for the first 4:29 of the game. The Broncs responded with an 8-4 run of their own but Monmouth was able to keep pace, earning a 21-11 lead with just over 11 minutes left in the first. The Hawks exploded on a 16-7 run to balloon the lead to 37-18 with 4:31 left in the opening half. Rider regained some ground by outscoring MU 14-7 over the final four minutes but Monmouth led 44-32 at the break. Nine of 10 Hawks scored in the first 20 minutes, including eight from junior Zac Tillman (Yeadon, PA/Shipley School).

With his layup early in the second half Robinson became the second Hawk in school history to surpass the 600-point plateau in a season. The only other was Alex Blackwell, who set the single-season scoring record with 663 in 1990-91.

Overall, Monmouth was led by Seaborn’s 19, while Tillman added 12, his highest output of the season. Robinson and Tilghman both reached double-digits with 10, with Tilghman also pacing MU with 7 rebounds. The Hawks shot 50.8% from the field while limiting Rider to 37.9% and 26.9% from downtown. The MU bench outscored Rider 33-20 and MU was tops in points in the paint, 44-26.

Rider was led by 16 from Kahlil Thomas and 13 by Kealen Ives. Khalil Alford chipped in 11 points and Thomas led the Broncs with eight boards.

The win secures the number one seed and ensures that Monmouth will open this year’s MAAC Tournament on Friday, March 4 at 7:00 p.m. at the Times Union Center against the winner of the #8/#9 game, played Thursday.

Monmouth will wrap up the regular season on Sunday, February 28 when they host Niagara on senior day at 5 PM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.

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