WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J.
– Monmouth, which got a career-high 27 points from senior guard Jesse Steele
(Milford, N.J./Oak Hill Academy) fell to league-leading Bryant 77-62 in Northeast Conference action in the MAC on Saturday night. Steele, who finished with 27 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals, connected on a career-best 10 field goals and hit four three-pointers.
The Hawks, who fall to 8-15 overall and 3-7 in the NEC, received nine-point efforts from Dion Nesmith
(Union, N.J./Union) and Stephen Spinella
(Colts Neck, N.J./Apex Academy), while Tyrone O'Garro
(Newark, N.J./Saint Peter’s Prep) added six points and seven boards.
Bryant (15-6 overall), which connected on 25-of-35 free throws, including 18-of-22 in the second half, improved to 8-2 in the league.
"I am really proud of my kids tonight. I felt like we fought for 40 minutes, and really gave it everything we had," commented head coach King Rice
. "Bryant sustained it tonight. Every time we made a run and got close, they'd make a big-time play. They did enough to get it done. When we ran out of gas, they still had more in their tank and we just couldn't get over the hump."
Steele’s pull-up jumper and O’Garro’s putback pulled the Hawks within two at 15:40, before Dyami Starks’ three-pointer at 12:15 gave the Bulldogs a 17-9 advantage. Following a Marcus Ware
(Vineland, N.J./Vineland) drive, which made the score 19-13 at 9:34, Bryant responded with an 8-0 spurt over three minutes to take a 27-13 lead.
Steele’s three-pointer halted the Bryant run at 5:47, while the guard’s second trey made the score 28-20 with 3:49 left. The Hawks climbed within 29-24 on Spinella’s slam off a feed from Steele with 1:30 showing, but Corey Maynard’s corner trifecta and Joe O’Shea’s free throw accounted for the halftime score of 33-24.
Monmouth raced out of the locker room on an 11-3 run, not allowing a Bryant field goal, to climb within 36-35 with 15:52 showing, but the Bulldogs answered with two straight three-pointers from Frankie Dobbs and Starks to claim a 42-35 advantage at 15:13.
The Bulldogs pushed their lead back to seven, 47-40 on Claybin McMath’s lay-in at 13:04, before the Hawks made the tally 47-44 after a pair of O’Garro free throws at 12:21. Trailing 59-51 after two Dobbs’ foul shots, the Hawks rallied to within 59-55 following a Steele drive and two Nesmith free throws with 5:44 showing.
Bryant responded with a 9-0 run to grab a 68-55 advantage, as part of a 12-2 streak, which left BU ahead 71-57 with 1:16 remaining. The Bulldogs, who finished the final five minutes of play on an 18-7 run, connected on six free throws in the final minute for the 15-point win.
Dobbs finished with a career-high 27 points, including 11-for-13 from the charity stripe, while Alex Francis added a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Monmouth, which was playing without Andrew Nicholas
, Khalil Brown
and Christian White
, hit 12-of-18 free throws and 22-of-64 from the field.
Monmouth returns to action on Thursday, February 7, when the Hawks travel to Quinnipiac University for a Northeast Conference contest at 7:00 p.m.