WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – It was a day when junior point guard Justin Robinson was merely magical for the Monmouth University men’s basketball team.
Robinson had 15 points and four assists as Quinnipiac focused their defense on stopping the dynamic junior point guard, so freshman guard Micah Seaborn and 6’10” junior center Chris Brady enjoyed career days. And after 10 games and five fruitless seasons of attempting to defeat coach Tom Moore’s team, the Hawks finally dislodged the Bobcats from their backs.
The 88-74 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 3,911 at the Multi Purpose Activity was the first for Monmouth (11-4, 3-1 in the MAAC) over Quinnipiac (5-9, 2-3) since Jan. 2, 2010 at the MAC. On that date then freshman forward Ed Waite had 17 points and six rebounds to lead Monmouth to a 72-60 triumph.
Here are four take aways from Monmouth’ s drought busting triumph.
1. Attendance is booming in West Long Branch.
One could argue a prime reason Monmouth was granted entry into the MAAC three years ago was the existence of its beautiful on campus arena that opened in 2009-10.
It took a while for the fans to turn out in numbers, as Monmouth had not had a winning season before last year since 2005-06. But the team is finally fulfilling the building’s destiny. The game marked the first time Hawks have drawn five consecutive crowds of 2,000 plus to their pristine, seven-year old facility.
According to the Asbury Park Press, season ticket sales are up 30 percent and in the two weeks after Monmouth’s opening night upset of UCLA traffic on the school’s athletic web site was up over 300 percent.
Rice, in his fifth year at Monmouth, has been yearning for the day when the Hawks would be the major draw at the Jersey Shore.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” Rice said. “I think our school has done a tremendous job of making it fun in the arena.
“I thought we could get to this, wasn’t sure it would happen happen this year. I thought by next year we would have that and it’s here a year early.
“We just have to play well enough—and from everybody telling me—the fans will keep coming. I really, really appreciate all the support.”
2. Monmouth’s balance was on display.
Paced by Brady’s first career double-double, including career highs in points (16) and rebounds (13), and Seaborn’s career-high tying 20 points, plus 11 points and nine rebounds from fifth-year senior forward Deon Jones, the Hawks placed four in double figures.
Brady started his eighth game, supplanting junior Zac Tillman in the opening lineup. “Happy to be watching ‘Big Brady’ growing up before our eyes,” Monmouth coach King Rice said.
3. Seaborn snapped a skid where he had failed to reach double figures in three of four games.
The redshirt freshman had tallied double figures in nine of the previous 10 games, including his 20-point night in Monmouth’s Nov. 29 victory over USC in the Advocare Invitational Tournament.
“When I hit my first one I feel like I’m not gonna miss,” Seaborn said. “It’s a great boost. Justin drove in and made a good pass to me to make sure I got an open shot.”
Robinson said Quinnipiac employed a box-and-one defense against him.
“That opens the floor for everybody else,” Robinson said. “I’m mentally prepared for it, I expect it.”
4. One domino to go.
With the victory Monmouth has now defeated every MAAC team since entering the league in 2013-14 except for Manhattan (0-4). It is 2-7 all time vs. the Jaspers with the last win Dec. 23, 1995, a 76-55 victory at old Boylan Gym. Monmouth visits Manhattan Jan. 21. The Jaspers will travel to West Long Branch Feb. 15.
Monmouth news n’ notes: The sellout was Monmouth’s second of the season and the seventh in building history… Monmouth improved to 21-23 vs. the MAAC in regular and postseason play… The Dec. 23rd win at Cornell marked the 60th career win for Rice….. Robinson has scored over 20 points in nine games this season and has placed himself in double figures in every game but one… The Hawks are 7-0 when leading at the half…. The Nov. 26 win over Notre Dame produced the 900th win in program history dating back to 1956-57. Monmouth went Division I in 1983-84… Monmouth was 8th in this week’s CollegeInsider.com Top 25 and 22nd in the NCAA.com RPI.
Quotable: “It felt like it was minus 100,” said Rice, when told Quinnipiac had only outrebounded Monmouth by four (50-46). “If we truly finished only minus four, that’s celebration time,” he said.
Did you know? With the win Monmouth evened its all-time MAC record at 44-44. Under Rice it is 31-28.