WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Despite a team-high 24 points from junior Deon Jones (Wilmington, Del./Sanford School/Towson), Monmouth University fell to visiting Rider University 89-83 in its Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) debut on Thursday night in the MAC. Monmouth (3-5, 0-1 MAAC) also got double-digit efforts from freshman Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, N.Y./Kingston), who added a career-high 19 points with a season-best tying five assists, while junior Andrew Nicholas (Wrightsville, Pa./Eastern York) added 13 points.
Rider, which went 28-for-36 from the free throw line, including 26-of-33 in the second half, improves to 3-4 overall and 1-0 in league play.
"Tonight was a very exciting game," stated head coach King Rice. "Our kids played extremely hard, and got to 83 points, but our defense wasn’t able to hold them down long enough. Rider is a solid team and Kevin [Baggett] does a great job with those kids. They made the shots that they needed to make and we couldn’t make enough to get to 89. I am proud of my kids. I thought we fought for 40 minutes, but we just got beat by a better team tonight.”
The Hawks connected on 50.0% (31-62) from the floor and hit a season-high 11 three-pointers, but hit just 10-of-20 from the free throw line.
Monmouth raced out to a 15-3 lead at 16:59 behind a trio of three-pointers and capped by Robinson’s jumper in the lane. The Broncs responded with a 20-2 run over 5:23 to take a 23-17 advantage as Rider connected on six trifectas in the spurt.
Jones’ basket in the paint stopped the Rider streak and ignited a 9-0 Monmouth run, which was capped by Greg Noack’s (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) lay-up off an inbounds play, as the Blue & White grabbed a 26-23 lead with 7:44 showing.
After Noack’s offensive rebound and putback gave MU a 28-25 lead at 7:14, Rider put together a 9-0 run of its own to take a 34-28 advantage, and pushed its lead to 42-33 with 25.6 left in the stanza on Junior Fortunat’s three-point play, before a Robinson drive at the horn pulled the Hawks within 42-35 at the half.
Despite five points from Jones, Rider increased its lead to 11, 51-40, at 17:10 on Jimmie Taylor’s trey, before the Hawks rattled off a 9-0 run over 3:05 of action, to climb within 51-49 on Robinson’s three-pointer from the top of the key.
Nicholas drained a trey from the corner at 12:40 to claw the Hawks within 53-52, while a pair of Jones free throws knotted the contest at 54-54 with 12:12 left.
Monmouth reclaimed a 60-58 lead on a Tyrone O'Garro (Newark, N.J./Saint Peter's Prep) drive, and after an O’Garro free throw at 7:43 tied the game at 61-61, the Broncs netted eight straight points from the free throw line to take a 69-61 edge with 5:45 left. Max DiLeo’s (Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson) corner three-pointer stopped the Rider run, pulling MU within 69-64, while trifectas from Josh James (White Plains, N.Y./Archbishop Stepinac) and DiLeo again made the tally 73-70 with 3:10 showing.
Rider, which scored 14 straight points from the foul line over a 4:10 span, went nearly five minutes without a field, until consecutive baskets from Daniel Stewart and Anthony Myles gave the Broncs a 79-72 edge with 1:32 left.
Jones (7-of-14 FG, 8-of-12 FTs) hauled in seven rebounds, notched four steals and had three assists for the Blue & White, while DiLeo added eight points and James dished out six assists. Robinson, who scored in double-figures for the fourth time, connected on his first five field goals in the game, hit a season-best eight field goals and added two steals.
Rider, which also hit 11 three-pointers, was paced by Myles' game-high 28 points (10-13 FTs), while Stewart added 21 points (11-12 FTs).
Monmouth returns to action tomorrow, Sunday, December 8 when the Hawks travel to Draddy Gymnasium to face MAAC preseason favorite Manhattan, at 2:00 p.m.
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