WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J.
– The Monmouth University starting backcourt trio of Dion Nesmith
(Union, N.J./Union), Christian White
(Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas Institute) and Jesse Steele
(Milford, N.J./Oak Hill Academy) combined for 51 points on 17-of-27 from the field, including 8-of-16 from three-point range, to pace the men’s basketball team to a 73-54 victory over Garden State rival Fairleigh Dickinson in Northeast Conference play on Thursday night.
Nesmith led the Hawks with a near career-high 21 points, while White notched a new career-best with 18 points on 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc and four assists, and Steele dropped in his fifth straight double-digit effort with 12 points on 2-of-3 from three-point range and five assists. The Hawks, who tied a season-high with nine three-point makes, hit a year-best 56.3% from the arc.
"My teammates got me the ball in great spots," said White, who has hit nine of his last 12 three-point attempts over three games. "I didn't have too many contested looks tonight, and that's all them, finding me and setting good screens."
With the win, Monmouth improves to 8-12 overall and 3-4 in the NEC.
The Hawks, who outrebounded the Knights 37-26, got a career-high nine boards from Tyrone O’Garro (Newark, N.J./Saint Peter’s Prep) and seven more from Stephen Spinella
(Colts Neck, N.J./Apex Academy).
Monmouth, which drilled 27-of-54 from the floor (50.0%), hit just 10-of-22 from the free throw line, as Max DiLeo
(Cinnaminson, N.J./Cinnaminson) added a career-best seven points and Marcus Ware
(Vineland, N.J./Vineland) notched six for the Hawks.
"Fairleigh Dickinson definitely has some guys that are match-up problems, but tonight our guys played for 40 minutes," stated head coach King Rice
. "We had some stretches where weren't as good as we'd like to be, but we stayed together for 40 minutes, and guys shared the ball for the most part for 40 minutes. When we do that, we are a tough team to beat."
Following five straight points from White, which gave the Hawks a 5-2 edge, the Knights answered with a 7-0 spurt over 1:23 to coral a 9-7 lead on Kinu Rochford’s post move with 16:55 showing. Monmouth responded with a 15-2 streak, highlighted by five straight from DiLeo, to haul in a 20-11 advantage on Gary Cox
’s fast break slam at 11:58.
FDU halted the Hawks’ run with four straight free throws from Trevor Charles to climb within 20-15, before Nesmith’s putback gave the Blue and White a 22-15 edge with 10:00 showing.
Ignited by Melquan Bolding’s three-pointer, the Knights rattled off the next seven to knot the game at 22-22 with 8:53 left, before Steele’s free throw line jumper reclaimed the lead for the Hawks, 24-22, with 7:42 showing. White drilled another trey in transition to put MU in front 29-24, but a pair of Bolding three-pointers tied the contest at 30-30 with 4:20 remaining.
After FDU tied the game for the sixth time, Nesmith drilled two free throws and a three-pointer to put MU in front 35-30 with 2:44 left, but baskets from Bolding and Yves Jules pulled the Knights within 35-34 at 1:12. Ed Waite
’s post-up and a White free throw gave the Hawks a 38-34 edge at intermission.
The Hawks raced out of the locker room with an 8-0 spurt as part of a 13-3 run to take a 51-37 lead, following White’s third three-pointer and DiLeo’s basket at 15:24. After Steele’s steal and lay-up, White’s extra pass found Steele in the corner for a three-pointer, which gave MU a 58-41 lead at 12:36.
The Knights climbed within 58-46, following a Mustafaa Jones trifecta, before White’s fourth trey and two Nesmith foul shots claimed a 65-48 advantage with 8:00 left.
Monmouth, which grabbed a 68-50 advantage on Nesmith's three-pointer with 6:25 showing, allowed just one basket and four total points to the Knights over the final 5:52 of action, holding FDU to 20 second-half points.
Bolding, who was 4-of-5 from three, paced FDU with 18 points, while Rochford (seven rebounds) and Jules added 10 points each for the Knights, who fall to 7-13 overall and 2-5 in the NEC.
"Every game is important, it's conference play," added White. "Every home game, every away game, everything means something. To win this one was important, but we've got to move on and look forward to Saturday's game."
Monmouth returns to action on Saturday, January 26, when the Hawks travel to Sacred Heart University for a Northeast Conference televised contest in the Pitt Center at 7:00 p.m.
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