ALBANY, N.Y. — Monmouth head coach King Rice made sure to tell his team of what happened just two days ago, just under five miles away at SEFCU Arena.
The Hawks entered Friday night as the top seed and while they did not put together their best performance, they managed to beat Rider 59-48 to advance to the semifinals on Sunday.
However, the message that Rice told his team prior to reaching the tournament was one of caution after seeing how Hartford beat second seeded Albany 68-59 in the America East quarterfinals on Wednesday.
“I did talk to them about Hartford beating Albany because I have so much respect for Will Brown,” Rice said. “The one time I played Albany, Will Brown beat me by about 100, he was running things and I was a rookie head coach, I was about five or six games in and he must’ve saw me coming because he made me have a very long night after the game, because he clowned us so badly.”
On Wednesday night it was the Hawks who got the better of the Great Danes, after being swept by them in the regular season and most recently falling to Albany on Saturday night. Hartford drained 12 three-pointers and held Albany at bay with a zone defense that forced the Great Danes into one of their worst shooting nights of the season. Freshman J.R. Lynch came up clutch with a three-pointer to ice the game in the final minutes and at the buzzer, it was John Gallagher and the Hawks that moved on in the America East Playoffs.
Gallagher said that Albany head coach Will Brown told him as they shook hands that “the way you guys played us, is the way you need to play us and that you did a great job preparing your team.”
“He was very, like a true champion, he was very classy,” Gallagher said of Brown. “They Albany have represented our league in a first class manner. Peter Hooley and all the seniors they’ve represented our conference, in such a great way.”
While it happened two days ago, the message was clear for Rice and the Hawks: if three time defending America East champion Albany could go down in their quarterfinal, they better be ready when they step on the Times Union Center floor.
“I have so much respect for them and I’ve watched for three years, them come out on top and was very surprised when Albany got knocked off the other night at home,” Rice said. “I almost couldn’t believe it, but I went in the next day and I told my kids guys, Albany’s won it three times, they thrive in this time of the year, their coach is good, their kids are good, they just keep playing better to get to the tournament and they had just played Hartford and, for some reason, Hartford gets them.”
“I just tried to put it in their minds, like guys if you don’t show up we will get beat by Rider by a bunch, they about should’ve beat us the first time, we got lucky in that game, then we outplayed them at our place. It’s not like there’s a lot of separation there, but I was just glad when we started the game our defense was here.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.