– After Jesse Steele
’s (Milford,N.J./Oak Hill Academy) three-pointer pulled the Hawks within a pair, Monmouth’s defense forced three Saint Francis turnovers in the final minute, but failed to capitalize in a 70-68 loss at Saint Francis University on Saturday afternoon in DeGol Arena.
Steele, who went for 19 points, drilled his second trey of the game with 55 seconds left, before the Red Flash grabbed a 70-66 lead with 20.9 on the clock following a pair of Earl Brown foul shots. Dion Nesmith
(Union, N.J./Union), who hit for a team-best 20 points, raced to goal for a hoop with 13.6 on the clock, pulling MU within 70-68, and MU’s defense forced two SFU timeouts and a turnover with 8.1 showing.
On the ensuing play, Steele’s three-pointer missed off the right of the rim, while Christian White
’s (Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas Institute) attempt at the buzzer fell short in the road Northeast Conference loss.
“We have to give Saint Francis credit. They outplayed us and beat us today,” stated head coach King Rice
. “Our kids tried hard, but I’m tired of saying our kids tried hard. You’re supposed to try hard. We have to play better. Hopefully these last two games, we will play better.”
Nesmith, who had four first-half three-pointers, connected on 7-of-13 from the field for a game-high 20 points, while Steele, who went 7-for-7 from the free throw line, added 19 points and four assists. Stephen Spinella
(Colts Neck, N.J./Apex Academy) and White added eight points each, while Tyrone O'Garro
(Newark, N.J./Saint Peter’s Prep) hauled in seven rebounds.
The Hawks grabbed an early 9-8 lead following Steele’s wing jumper and Ed Waite
’s (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Pine Crest) basket off a feed from O’Garro, before SFU answered with a 13-2 run, which included three three-pointers, to take a 21-11 advantage with 9:45 left.
Nesmith and White combined for MU’s 12-2 spurt answer over 3:37 of play, as each connected on a pair of three-pointers, to tie the game at 23-23 at 5:59. The Red Flash then responded with the next six points to claim a 29-23 edge with 3:00 showing.
Monmouth, highlighted by Nesmith’s fourth trey of the half, reclaimed a 30-29 cushion with 1:01 left, but Anthony Ervin’s drive with 40 seconds left gave SFU a 31-30 lead at the break.
Consecutive drives from Spinella and Nesmith pushed the Hawks in front 34-33 out of the break, before a 12-2 Red Flash streak gave SFU a 45-36 advantage with 16:23 showing.
The Blue and White answered with an 8-0 spurt to get within 45-44 at 13:50, and claimed a 55-54 lead with 8:48 left following Steele’s three-point play and three-pointer on consecutive possessions.
The Hawks held a 59-57 edge on a Gary Cox
(Houston, Texas/Nimitz) lay-up at 7:27, before the Red Flash responded with an 8-0 streak to lead 65-59 with 3:43 showing.
In a game with 10 lead changes and five ties, Brown netted a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, with six assists for Saint Francis, while Anthony Ervin added 19 points for the Red Flash, who hit 54.2% (26-48) from the field, and 11-of-23 from three-point range.
Monmouth, which falls to 10-19 overall and 5-11 in the NEC, connected on 14-of-15 from the stripe and 23-of-50 (46.0%) from the field. The Hawks also forced 22 turnovers, which MU turned into 25 points.
Monmouth returns to action on Thursday, February 28, when the Hawks return home to host Mount St. Mary’s in Northeast Conference action at 7:00 p.m. in the MAC.
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