NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Paced by four Hawks in double-figures and three more with nine points, the Monmouth University men's basketball team earned its first-ever Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) road win with an 85-74 victory at Niagara University on Friday night at the Gallagher Center.
"Tonight was an exciting win for our young team on the road," said head coach King Rice. "I think Niagara is a tough team to prepare for and we had to do some things that we haven't done all year, to be able to get this win. I am so proud of our young big kids, in their first start together, it going so well for them. They are going to continue to get better and our team is going to continue to get better."
Junior classmates Deon Jones (Wilmington, Del./Sanford School/Towson) and Andrew Nicholas (Wrightsville, Pa./Eastern York) each posted 14 points for the Hawks, while freshman guard Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, N.Y./Kingston) and freshman center Chris Brady (Greenlawn, N.Y./Harborfields) added 13 points points apiece in the road victory. Brady, in his first career start, hit 5-of-6 from the floor, for his season-high total, while adding five rebounds and two steals.
Three other Hawks notched nine-point nights for the Blue & White, including a season-best for freshman Zac Tillman (Yeadon, Pa./Shipley School), freshman Josh James (White Plains, N.Y./Archbishop Stepinac) and junior Max DiLeo (Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson).
Monmouth, which scored its first three baskets in the paint, took a 9-6 lead with 15:17 left in the half on a Jones’ three-pointer, and built its lead to 11-6 on Marcelo Ruediger’s (Natal, Brazil/Proctor Academy) lay-in. Consecutive lay-ups from Nicholas and Robinson gave the Blue & White a 15-9 edge at 13:48, while DiLeo drilled a three-pointer to push MU in front 20-13 with 11:44 showing.
Brady’s basket, off a feed from Tillman put the Hawks ahead 24-16 at 8:10, before Niagara went on a 12-2 run over 4:14 of action to take its first lead of the contest, 28-26, on a pair of Rayvon Harris free throws with 3:03 left.
MU answered with a 7-0 spurt which turned into a 9-2 run and a 35-30 lead on Jones’ drive with 39 seconds left in the stanza, before Wesley Myers’ short jumper pulled the Purple Eagles within 35-32 at the break.
The Hawks opened the second half with a 10-0 spurt to grab a 45-32 lead with 16:43 left following consecutive three's from Robinson and James, and hauled in their largest lead of the contest 61-39 behind a 16-2 streak, with 8:52 showing.
Monmouth, which outscored NU 18-4 over nearly 7:30 of play, led 63-41 with 7:39 left, and held a 71-51 advantage with 4:42 on the clock following Brady's offensive rebound and basket.
The Purple Eagles responded with a 12-1 over 1:08 of action to climb within 72-63 with 3:21 remaining, but after a pair of Nicholas free throws, the Hawks held a double-digit lead for the rest of the contest.
Monmouth, which netted 34 points in the paint, connected on 26-of-33 from the free throw line, including 24-for-31 in the second half, while hitting a season-high 62.8% (27-43) from the field for the game.
Niagara, which was led by Mason's 24 points (14-of-15 from the line), went 30-of-41 from the free throw line (23-33 in the second half), but hit just 36.5% (19-52) from the floor.
Monmouth returns to action on Sunday, January 12 when the Hawks make a first-ever trip to Canisius College in MAAC action. Tip at the Koessler Athletic Center is set for 2:00 p.m.
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