WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J.
– Paced by 18-point efforts from both Jesse Steele
(Milford, N.J./Oak Hill Academy) and Andrew Nicholas
(Wrightsville, Pa./Eastern York), the Monmouth University men’s basketball team won its third straight game, defeating Lafayette 65-60 in the MAC on Monday night. The Hawks, who forced 27 turnovers, which turned into 24 points, improves to 4-3 on the season, and have forced 20+ turnovers in six of seven games already.
Monmouth, which trailed 26-21 with 54 seconds left in the first half, outscored the Leopards 29-10 over the next 11:08 of action to claim a 50-36 lead with 10:14 remaining. Lafayette climbed within four points as late as 2:05, 59-55, but Steele’s fourth three-pointer and two free throws in the final minute allowed the Hawks to hold on for the non-conference victory.
“I am very proud of my kids,” exclaimed head coach King Rice
. “We keep getting better and they bring an honest effort every day. Lafayette is a tough team to prepare for, but our kids have grown up. We are fighting on defense. We were not as sharp on offense today, but that’s ok. We will continue to get better on offense. I want to take my hat off to our crowd. Everyone’s coming out and helping us get these wins.”
Steele added a season-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-9 from three-point range, while Nicholas posted his fourth straight double-digit effort on 7-of-18 shooting from the floor, with five rebounds. Dion Nesmith
(Union, N.J./Union) added nine points, a career-high six steals and five rebounds, while Stephen Spinella
(Colts Neck, N.J./Apex Academy) chipped in seven points and five boards in his third straight start.
The Hawks, who hit 16-of-32 from the field in the second half, connected on 43.1% overall and forced 15 first half turnovers.
Nicholas netted the first six points for the Hawks, as Monmouth led 6-4 early, while Max DiLeo
’s (Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson) steal and break-away dunk and Khalil Brown
’s (South Orange, N.J./Westwind Academy) jumper gave the Blue and White one-point edges as late as 13:06. Lafayette answered with an 8-2 spurt, capped by Bryce Scott’s corner three-pointer to grab a 20-15 advantage with 6:36 showing.
Nicholas responded with a pair of treys of his own, including a corner trifecta off a find from Christian White
(Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas Institute) to pull the Hawks within one, 22-21, with 3:05 left. Monmouth, which held the Leopards without a field goal for a 4:58 stretch, climbed within 26-24 at the break on Steele’s three-pointer with 42 seconds left in the half.
Ignited by Spinella’s steal and slam, the Hawks opened the second half on a 12-4 run to take a 36-30 lead. Spinella, who notched half of the Hawks’ points in the spurt, gave the Hawks the six-point edge on a pair of free throws at 16:06.
Consecutive three-pointers from Steele pushed MU in front 42-35, while Nesmith’s drive gave the Hawks a 44-36 edge with 12:00 left.
The Hawks claimed a 50-36 advantage at 10:14 after eight straight points, until Tony Johnson’s three-pointer halted the run at 9:44, making the tally 50-39.
After Monmouth corralled its 14-point lead, the Leopards responded with an 8-2 run which included a pair of three-pointers, to pull within 52-44 with 8:08 showing.
The Blue and White reclaimed a double-digit lead, 54-44 on Brown’s post move, but the Leopards scored six of the next eight to climb within 56-50 on Seth Hinrich’s short jumper in the lane with 4:00 on the clock.
Hinrichs led the way for LC, posting 15 points with four rebounds, while Johnson netted 14 points, nine boards and seven assists for the Leopards, who shot 46.9% from the floor and outrebounded Monmouth 39-28.
Monmouth returns to action next Monday, December 3 when the Hawks travel to Binghamton for a 7:00 p.m. non-conference contest in the Events Center.