Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics.
By David Cordova
After making a national statement last season by winning 28 games and beating big-time programs such as UCLA, Notre Dame and USC, the Monmouth Hawks are back and they’re better. This season, Monmouth has been in first place throughout the season, going 20-5 overall and 12-2 in conference play going into last night’s game.
But in a conference such as the MAAC in which there are tough battles every game, even the Hawks were not immune to the threat of losing to a team that was in a lower place than they. In this game, it would be Manhattan, who is in ninth place in the conference and struggling through a dismal 9-16 season going into the game, with only four wins in conference thus far. The Jaspers would hold a lead for most of the game, but what matters most is closing out the game, which is what the Hawks were able to do.
Monmouth 62, Manhattan 58
The first half started out very close for both teams, as they kept it neck & neck for the first ten minutes of the game. But then Monmouth sophomore guard Micah Seaborn would hit a three-pointer to put the Hawks up by four, 15-11, with 7:48 to go in the half.
Manhattan would keep the game close, as the front court became a war zone on both sides as it was tough for both teams to make shots, and also, there were numerous foul calls on both teams. Although they were led by junior guard Zavier Turner, who had 12 points early in the first half, the Jaspers could not contain the Hawks, as the battle on the boards went on.
The Jaspers would take a two-point lead at 29-27, with 1:16 left after a layup by junior forward Calvin Crawford, and that would be their exact lead at halftime. The main reason for the slow start by both teams was the field goal percentage, as Monmouth shot 25% from the field, while Manhattan shot 30%.
Manhattan would pick up the pace in the first couple of minutes, as they built their lead up to seven, 34-27, with less than nineteen minutes to go.
But Monmouth would stay close, going within one, 37-36, with 14:19 to go after a three-pointer by senior Justin Robinson. The game would continue to be a see-saw battle, as both teams continued to trade baskets.
Then with 7:11 to go, Turner would hit a three-pointer to bring the Jaspers up six, 51-45. Moments later, another jumper by Turner would bring them up by six, 55-49.
But the the Hawks would not be down for long as junior guard Austin Tilghman would hit two free throws to help them tie the score at 57-57, with 2:06 to go. Then Seaborn would help them take the lead at 60-57 on a three-pointer with 1:27 to go. Pierre Sarr would hit one free throw with a few seconds left to close this victory out and remain atop the MAAC.
Junior guard Je’lon Hornbeak led Monmouth with 15 points and Seaborn added 10 points, while senior center Chris Brady had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks. For Manhattan, Turner had 27 points and junior forward Zane Waterman had an off-night in scoring with five points, but ended up with 15 rebounds in the loss.