Monmouth 85, Siena 69: Robinson Eclipses 1,000 As Hawks Handle Saints

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ. – Junior guard Justin Robinson of the Monmouth University men’s basketball team said he was frustrated when he failed to score 1,000 career points at Kingston, N.Y. High School.

Since then he has more than made up for falling short of that mark during his scholastic days.

“They didn’t tell me how many career points I had in high school until there were about three games left in my career,” Robinson said late Monday.

“By that time it was too late,” he said. “So I just started throwing up bombs.”

Monday the 5’8″ point guard scored 23 points bringing his collegiate total to 1,014 while senior swingman Deon Jones added 21 in an 85-69 victory over Siena.

robinson_justin_monmouth_dribble
Monmouth junior Justin Robinson led the Hawks with a game-high 23 points in their win over Siena.

A third sellout crowd of 3,911 in four home games this season at the Multi Purpose Activity Center saw Monmouth (14-4, 6-1) capture its fifth game in a row  and vault into sole possession of first place in the MAAC over idle St. Peter’s (7-8, 5-1) .

Robinson, who also had four assists and three steals without a turnover, reached his milestone with a layup with 4:25 remaining in the first half.

Many in the capacity crowd rose from their seats in applause even as play continued.

With 79 games at Monmouth games  in his book, Robinson is challenging for the most career points by a Monmouth player since the program went Division I in 1983-84 and number two in program history.

Monmouth has at least 14 games remaining this season (13 regular season and one in the MAAC Tournament) and probably more, plus approximately 30 in 2016-17.

Over that span if he averages 20 points per game (he is currently at 20.7 ppg.) Robinson would end with around 1,900 career points. Monmouth Division I co-leaders are Alex Blackwell (who played only three years from 1989-92 and John Giraldo (1992-96), each of whom scored 1,749 career points. No. 2 all time is Ed Halecki, who went onto pitch in the Major Leagues. The 6’7″ Halecki racked up 1,777 career points in the early 70’s when Monmouth was an NAIA program.

“It means that my teammates get me the ball and coach (King) Rice allows me to take about 450 shots,” Robinson said of his achievement. “You’ve got to take that many shots to get to 1,000 points.

“It means a lot getting it in college my junior year because I didn’t get it in high school.”

Well after the game  and still in uniform Robinson, surrounded by young fans at mid court, was signing autographs and posing for pictures.

“We’re so lucky to have him and so happy he’s with us,” Rice said.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s game:

1. No Let Down At The MAC

Monmouth did not suffer a let down in the wake of Friday’s emotional, post game scuffle marred 110-102 victory at Iona. Rice said he was never worried that a lapse in focus would take place.

“Not at all,” Rice said. “The reason is because of these kids. I’m looking for reasons to be on them but they keep showing up every single day. They show up (for practice), they give an honest effort.”

MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor said the league will issue a statement Tuesday about the incident at Iona in which television replays showed Iona’s Jordan Washington slapping Monmouth’s Chris Brady in the face. Iona has since suspended Washington for two games, this past Sunday’s contest at Rider which Iona lost 79-75, and Friday’s home game against St. Peter’s.

2. Jones provided second half spark

The 6’6” fifth-year senior, a 1,000 point scorer in his own right, pumped in 16 of his points in the second half to help break the game open.

Jones has amassed 1,072 points in three years at Monmouth following his transfer from Towson University after his freshman year. Including his one year stint with Towson, Jones has scored 1,295 career points.

“I thought Deon Jones took over in the second half once he slowed down a little bit,” Rice said. “We made some calls for him because he’s so dangerous  with the ball in his hands. In the second half I called his number about five or six times in a row.”

With Monmouth ahead 41-36 Jones began the second half with two driving layups, then swished from deep and sank another two-pointer as Monmouth began the half on a 15-4 run.

“Once he slowed down, he’s a dangerous kid,” Rice said. “He can score in a variety of different ways.”

Jones went 3-for-3 Monday from beyond the arc and had three rebounds and blocked two shots.

3. Turnovers doom Siena

Freshman guard Nico Clareth led Siena (11-7, 4-3)  with 15 points but coach Jimmy Patsos lamented his team’s inability to handle the ball.

“Don’t elect me president because my message was, ‘Take care of the ball and we’ll be OK,’ ” Patsos said in the hallway outside his team’s locker room after the game. “My speech didn’t work as a candidate for the head coaching job.”

The Saints (11-7, 4-3) were sabotaged by 21 turnovers which led to 26 Monmouth points. The Hawks had just one turnover in the first half and finished with eight.

Siena’s miscues more than offset their 44-30 rebounding advantage, including outrebounding Monmouth 16-8 on the offensive glass. Despite Siena owning the boards the teams tied in second chance points (8).

Siena’s leading scorer Marcus Wright missed his sixth consecutive game with a stress fracture in his right foot. The junior guard underwent successful surgery on Dec. 30 and the soonest he is expected to return is the Feb. 11 home game vs. Canisius. A team captain for a second straight season, the Saints starting point guard is averaging 17.3 points per game.

“Jimmy will have them right where they need to be right towards the middle to the end (of the season) once he (Wright) gets back” Rice said.

Siena 6-foot-8 junior Javion Ogunyemi had 14 points and 10 rebounds and 6-foot-8 redshirt junior Brett Bisping had 14 points and eight boards.

Can the Hawks take Manhattan?

When Monmouth visits Manhattan Thursday it will be looking for its first MAAC victory over the Jaspers.

It is 0-4 vs. Manhattan since joining the league in 2013-14, 2-7 overall, and has not defeated Manhattan since winning 76-55 on Dec. 23, 1995 at  Boylan Gym in West Long Branch. It is also 0-4 at Manhattan’s Draddy Gymnasium.

“They are a tough matchup because Steve (Masiello) is the coach,” Rice said. “They have good players that have won championships in the league, they have major contributors from two championship teams.”

“Manhattan’s gym is not the biggest gym,” Robinson said. “It’s always very tight and rowdy. They have great fans. The last two years we’ve had opportunities to win in that gym and we dropped them because we were immature as a team. I feel like we’ve taken major maturity steps this season.”

News N’ Notes: At 14-4 Monmouth is off to its best start since turning Division I in 1983-84. As a Division II program in 1980-81 it began 15-3 en route to a 25-4 season….Robinson has scored 20 or more points in 11 games this season… The 110 points Monmouth scored at Iona where it’s most points since it scored 124 January 8, 1994 in a 124-100 victory over LIU… ESPN has announced the 9 p.m. February 12 Monmouth at Rider game will be carried on ESPNU… The Hawks are 4-1 all time vs. Siena… Friday at Iona Monmouth became the first team in the nation to reach eight road victories. Only three other teams, Navy, West Point and Little Rock had reached seven.  Monmouth’s 10 road/neutral site victories were also the most in the country… Siena has equaled its win total from last season but hasn’t won consecutive MAAC road games since February 2014… Entering Monday, the Saints were averaging 73 points and shooting 43% from the field on the road this season, compared to 82.4 points per game and 50% from the field in their seven home games… Siena’s 52 rebounds Friday night at Quinnipiac were its most since grabbing 53 in a double overtime victory over Ohio State in the 2009 NCAA Tournament… The Saints are the only team in the MAAC with two players in the top 10 in rebounding (Bisping and Ogunyemi). 

Did you know? Monmouth’s first ever MAAC conference win came over Siena on Jan. 2, 2014 at the MAC.

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