The top-seeded Monmouth University’s Men’s Basketball team (27-6, 17-3 MAAC) advanced to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament Championship Game after defeating fifth-seeded Fairfield University (19-13, 12-8) 76-63 Sunday afternoon at the Times Union Center.

Listen to the game broadcast at the end of this report

The Hawks reach the MAAC Championship Game for the first time and a conference championship game for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

“I knew Sydney would come up with something different today,” said Monmouth Head Coach King Rice. “They came out in zone and it was a good plan, it slowed us down and made us feel stagnant for a while. I thought an important play in the game was when Je’lon Hornbeak went one on one and took a shot, it looked like it was going to miss, went off the backboard and went in. That gave us some momentum and opened it up for our other guys to just go out and play basketball. We started guarding and we came out on top.”

Monmouth led by as much as 23 in the contest and never let Fairfield closer than nine points in the second half. Micah Seaborn (Fort Worth, TX/Prime Prep Academy) led all scorers with 17 points while Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, NY/Kingston) dropped 15 and nine rebounds. The game marked the return of Deon Jones (Wilmington, DE/Sanford School/Towson), who missed the last five games with a broken hand, with the senior captain scoring nine points, three assists and seven rebounds.

“I am so happy for Deon Jones and his family that he is able to play again,” said Rice. “Of course it makes our team better but for what he’s done and meant for Monmouth University it was hard to see him not be able to finish his senior season. I am truly so happy for Deon and the Jones family that he gets to finish his senior season on his feet.”

The Hawks came out of the break on fire, outscoring Fairfield 16-4, including a 7-0 run. Seaborn tallied seven points over that run as the Hawk lead ballooned to 62-40 on an Austin Tilghman (Wilmington, DE/Archbishop Carroll) layup with 12:34 remaining in the contest. Tilghman was the third Hawk to finish in double figures, scoring 10 points in the win. Monmouth kept pace over the next few minutes until Fairfield tallied six consecutive points, all on layups to cut the Blue & White’s lead to 17 with 5:34 to play. Monmouth went cold from the floor and Fairfield was able to close to within 70-59 late but the Hawk lead proved to be insurmountable with the Blue & White eventually winning by 13.

Monmouth took an early 7-4 lead on a Seaborn three pointer at the 15:40 mark of the first half but Fairfield hit five three pointers in the first 12 minutes, including two apiece from Kevin Degnan and Matija Milin. A Robinson steal and dunk combined with threes from Hornbeak and James helped trim a Stag lead that was once nine to four with 5:05 showing on the clock. Back to back Diago Quinn (New York City, NY/Lake Forest Academy (IL)) layups tied the game up at 30-30 with 3:35 to play in the first half. Monmouth closed out the final six minutes of the half on a 22-8 run to take a 42-36 lead into the locker room.

The Hawks held a 26-10 advantage in bench points, outscored the Stags 32-24 in the paint and 21-9 off turnovers.

Monmouth’s defense held First Team All-MAAC selection Marcus Gilbert to 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting. Matija led the Stags with 16 points. Fairfield shot 35.6% from the floor and 25% from beyond the arc in the contest.

The Blue & White will face Iona in tomorrow night’s MAAC Championship game, live on ESPN at 7 PM.

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