WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ – Just a little more than 10 minutes remained in the first half Monday night when guard Thomas Capuano of the Manhattan College basketball team ran in front of Monmouth University forward Deon Jones.
There was some incidental contact but suddenly Jones, a 6’6″ redshirt senior and Monmouth’s No. 3 scorer (10.5 ppg) and leading rebounder (6.5 rpg), was grimacing, holding his right wrist area. He immediately headed for the team locker room accompanied by athletic trainer Vanesssa Christenson.
When he returned just before the end of the half the lower portion of his right arm was encased in an icy wrap.
“Right now Deon has a broken hand,” Monmouth coach King Rice said after the game, an announcement that cast a shadow over an otherwise landmark night.
With a 79-70 victory by the Hawks (22-5, 14-2), their first over the Jaspers (11-13, 8-7) in Monmouth’s three-seasons in the MAAC, Monmouth set one Division I record and tied another. Monmouth eclipsed the school’s DI program record of 21 wins set by the 2000-2001 team led by Rahsaan Johnson and Gerry Crosby and the 2003-2004 club paced by Blake Hamilton and Dwayne Byfield. Monmouth also tied the program’s longest D-I winning streak at eight.
Monmouth can clinch its first MAAC regular season championship with a home court victory Friday in a showdown with second place Iona.
Jones, who transferred from Towson University after his freshman year, is Monmouth’ leading active scorer with 1,391 points of which 1,168 have come in a Monmouth uniform. Justin Robinson, who pitched in 20 Monday night, has scored 1,189 career points.
“They’re gonna do more tomorrow and try to find out [more],” Rice said after the game. “I just asked them. I have not talked to the trainer. I tried not to even tell the guys at halftime. They’re going to do more x-rays.”
“Deon said to me it was (broken) in two places.”
Rice said he asked if anything could be done to allow Jones to play again this season. “He (Jones) said that’s why we’re meeting tomorrow,” Rice said.
Redshirt freshman guard Micah Seaborn scored 22 points to lead Monmouth Monday.
Sophomore forward Calvin Crawford, who scored a then career high 20 points to help Manhattan hand Monmouth its last defeat, 78-71 Jan. 21 in Riverdale, N.Y., set another new career high against the Hawks with 22 Monday to lead four players in double figures.
Robinson said finally defeating Manhattan after going 0-5 against them in the MAAC, enabled Monmouth to clear a mental hurdle. “Absolutely,” he said. “It was just growing up and showing them we could finish the game down the stretch,” he said.
Here are takeaways from Monday’s game:
1. Monmouth’s depth is certain to be tested for the balance of the season, presumably without Jones. Rice said it will, however, get back 6-foot-10 center Zac Tillman Friday. Tillman, who has most recently been No. 2 behind starting center Chris Brady, has missed the last three games due to the passing of Tillman’s father.
Rice talked about his team’s versatility. “We can go big and I still haven’t gone super big,” he said. “We can put the two big guys (Brady and Tillman in the game) and let Micah run around screens and (have) Josh (James) and Justin up there doing their thing. That might be something we do in the (MAAC) Tournament.”
2. With nine minutes left in the game and the Hawks ahead, 58-53, Rice went to a five guard lineup of Je’Lon Hornbeak, Austin Tilghman, James, Seaborn, and Robinson. In that alignment Seaborn was the tallest player at 6-foot-5.
Rice said he was willing to give up some size. Manhattan’s tallest player, 6-foot-9 sophomore Zane Waterman, finished with 10 points and six rebounds. He clicked on two jumpers against the smaller Monmouth lineup but was pulled by coach Steve Masiello following a turnover with 5:33 to play.
“These (Monmouth) guys are tough guys,” Rice said. “We talk about gang rebounding.”
The teams ended the night even on the glass with 34 rebounds apiece.
3. Manhattan was hampered by foul trouble that severely limited 1,300 point scorer Shane Richards. Richards, the team’s leading scorer (17.8 ppg.) who played just four minutes in the first half, tallied all 13 of his points over the final 14 minutes.
“We’ve got players on that bench,” Masiello said. “But when you get your best player with three (fouls) in the first four (minutes) your backs are kind of against the wall a little bit. It kind of limits the things you can do offensively.”
Manhattan never got closer than five points after Monmouth went to its five guard lineup and eventually fell behind 75-62 with 2:13 remaining.
But Masiello seemed to find hope in those matchups. “It might not have worked tonight but I saw something,” he said. “So….we’ll see them again.”
Manhattan Tip-ins: Richards 13 points gives him 1,363 for his career. He took over 10th place on the school’s scoring charts in the prior game against Marist…The Jaspers played the second game of a four-game road trip and are 3-9 away from Draddy Gym this season….Manhattan has not swept a MAAC team yet this season… Masiello became the fifth coach in school history to notch 90 wins when Manhattan defeated Marist…In the first meeting vs. Monmouth this year the Jasper bench scored a season-high 46 points, on 51.9 percent (18-of-34) shooting, while outscoring the starters (32 points). Monday night the Manhattan bench again prevailed over its starters 47-23 paced by Crawford and Williams. Three starters, Samson Akilo, Tyler Wilson, and RaShawn Stores (9.1 ppg.) failed to score… The Jaspers play next on Wednesday in a makeup game at Saint Peter’s on Feb. 17.
Monmouth Tip-ins: Monmouth has won its last nine games at the MAC (8-0 this year) dating back to the final home game of 2014-15. In seven years in the arena it has gone 49-44 (36-28 in Rice’s five years). Monday’s attendance of 3,040 brought the season total to 28,179 an average of 3,522… With 20 points Monday, Robinson’s career total of 1,189 places him 10th on the school Division I scoring list and 22nd in program annals… Robinson’s 548 points this season place him 115 points behind the single season Division I record of 663 produced by Alex Blackwell (1990-91)… Robinson has been compared to 5-foot-6 Monmouth guard Ron Kornegay who scored a school record 773 points in 1967-68 on his way to the all time Monmouth mark of 2,526… Assuming Robinson remains in good health he has a legitimate chance to pass the Monmouth Division I record of 1,749 career points shared by John Giraldo (1992-96) and Blackwell, as well as claiming No. 2 all-time from 6-foot-7 Ed Halecki (1968-72) who scored 1,777 points. Kornegay’s total appears out of reach… Both the 2001 and 2004 Monmouth teams won Northeast Conference Tournament championships earning the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid… The Hawks host Iona next on Friday night on ESPNU, where they can lock up a regular season championship with a win.