STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.
– Trailing by 15 points in the second half, the Monmouth University men’s basketball team climbed within 57-56 with 47 seconds remaining, but ultimately fell 60-56 at Wagner in the Northeast Conference opener in the Spiro Sports Center on Thursday night.
Following Jesse Steele
’s drive to the basket, which pulled the Hawks within one with 47 ticks left, Wagner’s Marcus Burton hit a single free throw, but the Hawks, with a chance to win the game, turned the ball over with eight seconds left. Burton then iced the game with a pair of foul shots with 5.7 ticks showing in the home win for the Seahawks.
“I am proud of my team,” stated head coach King Rice
. “On that last play, I thought we were going to be able to knock down a shot to win at the end, but Wagner did a great job of defending our play. We are still working to get closer to the top of the league. We have had great games with Wagner and right now they are just a little bit in front of us. I look forward to playing them again.”
The Hawks, now 5-9 overall, were led by Andrew Nicholas
’ 21 points, as the guard connected on four three pointers in his fourth career 20-point game, while Steele added 12 points and three assists. Khalil Brown
and Marcus Ware
chipped in seven points each as well for Monmouth.
MU, which forced 18 Wagner turnovers, held the Seahawks without a field goal for the final 8:20 of the game.
Monmouth, which forced Wagner to six empty possessions to start the game, grabbed an early 4-0 lead behind baskets from Steele and Ware, but the Seahawks answered with a 10-0 run over 1:40 to claim a 10-4 edge at 13:08.
Nicholas’ wing jumper halted the Seahawk advance, while a Brown corner three-pointer and Ware’s drive pulled the Hawks within 13-11 with 9:23 showing. Following a Dion Nesmith
corner trey, Wagner inflated its lead to 21-14 with 6:50 left. The Blue and White answered with a 7-0 run, ignited by five straight from Nicholas, to knot the game at 21-21 with 5:29 remaining on Ware’s post-up jumper.
The Seahawks concluded the half on a 6-3 run over the final 2:57, as Burton netted all six for Wagner. Nicholas connected on his second trey for Monmouth to make the score 25-24, but Burton’s floater gave WC a 27-24 edge at the intermission.
Behind three straight three-point trips for the Seahawks, Wagner opened the second stanza on a 12-2 to take a 39-26 lead at 17:07.
Monmouth answered with six straight, including a Steele three-pointer, to climb within 39-32 with 14:38 left, but the Seahawks responded with a 10-2 run over a 3:17 span to push their advantage to a game-high 15 points, 49-34 with 9:27 left.
MU retaliated with a 14-2 run to make the score 51-48 at 4:55, and after a pair of Kenneth Ortiz foul shots put Wagner ahead 53-48, Steele, following a Tyrone O'Garro
offensive rebound, drained his second trey to pull the Hawks within two, 53-51, with 4:00 showing.
After Ortiz hit another pair of free throws, Nicholas’ three-point play trimmed the Monmouth deficit to 55-54 with 1:35 remaining.
Wagner, which has won five of its last six, had four players in double-figures, led by Burton’s 15 points and Mario Moody’s near double-double of 12 points and nine rebounds.
Monmouth returns to action on Saturday, January 5, when the Hawks travel to Knott Arena to face Mount St. Mary’s in Northeast Conference action. Tip is set for 7:00 p.m.