WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Junior Andrew Nicholas (Wrightsville, Pa./Eastern York) and freshman Josh James (White Plains, N.Y./Archbishop Stepinac) combined for 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, to help pace Monmouth University to a 63-60 comeback victory over Fairfield University in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) action on Thursday night.
Monmouth, now 10-10 overall and 4-5 in MAAC play, trailed 54-46 with 10:05 remaining in the game, took the lead for good with 2:37 showing, as James' drive gave the Hawks a 60-59 edge. The Hawks' 15-5 run culminated on junior Max DiLeo's (Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson) free throw with 1:43 left, as MU took a 61-59 lead, before Maurice Barrow's foul shot pulled the Stags within 61-60 with 1:27 showing.
Following a Monmouth turnover, Barrow's baseline jumper with seven seconds left fell short and junior Deon Jones (Wilmington, Del./Sanford School/Towson) hauled in the defensive rebound. After hitting one free throw, Monmouth collected the offensive rebound and DiLeo connected on another foul shot with 0.8 on the board for the final 63-60 tally.
"Believe. Compete. Succeed. Our guys keep believing in each other and that is giving us a chance to win games," said head coach King Rice. "I thought they showed a lot of character today. Fairfield did an unbelievable job of coming in and executing its plan. I think our defense wore them down at the end and we were fortunate to make some plays and get the win."
Nicholas went for 19 points and six rebounds, while James hit 5-of-7 from the floor for 15 points, six assists and four boards to lead the Hawks, who outscored the Stags 34-14 in the paint, and hit 11-of-20 (55.0%) during the second half comeback. Jones tallied 13 points (5-of-9 FG) and seven rebounds for the Blue & White.
An early 8-0 run gave the Stags an 8-2 lead with 17:20 left, before a 6-0 spurt from the Hawks pulled Monmouth even at 10-10 at 13:14, following a pair of James free throws. Fairfield answered with a 13-4 streak to grab a 23-14 advantage with 6:18 showing.
Paced by six points from Nicholas and a drive from redshirt freshman Collin Stewart (Glenville, N.Y./Mekeel Christian Academy), the Hawks put together an 8-0 run to climb within 23-22 with 3:15 left, and hauled in a 27-26 edge on James’ three-point play with 1:32 on the clock. The Blue & White led 29-28 after two more James foul shots, but Fairfield, which went 7-of-20 from three-point range in the opening stanza, grabbed a 31-29 lead at the break on Marcus Gilbert’s fourth trey of the half.
Jones drilled a three-pointer out of the gate in the second half to put Monmouth ahead 32-31 and a pair of freshman Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, N.Y./Kingston) free throws pushed the Hawks in front 34-31 with 19:04 showing. Fairfield reclaimed the lead behind five three-pointers, grabbing a 48-43 edge at 12:50, and led 54-46 following a quick 5-0 spurt.
In a game that featured eight lead changes and seven ties, Fairfield (4-16, 1-8 MAAC) hit 12-of-33 from beyond the arc, and hit 37.7% (20-53) from the field overall. The Stags put two players in double-figures as Barrow notched a game-high 20 points and Gilbert added 19, while KJ Rose tallied seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Monmouth returns to action on Sunday, January 26 when the Hawks travel to Rider University in MAAC action in Alumni Gymnasium at 4:00 p.m., in Lawrenceville, N.J.
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