LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA---When the tournament field was released for the 2015 Advocare Invitational, a championship matchup between Wichita State and Notre Dame filled the eyes of college basketball fans everywhere. Yet, who would have thought it would be the consolation championship.
Instead of playing like a team with no chance to defeat their ranked opposition, the Monmouth Hawks, the MAAC representative in this year's tournament, played like a team with confidence and swagger. As a result, they left the HP Field House with a controversial 70-68 victory.
Immediately, the Hawks flew ahead from the Fighting Irish thanks to back-to-back three pointers from Je'lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn. Nevertheless, the quick jump out played a minuscule factor on the outcome of the game, for Notre Dame eventually tied it and stole the lead on a Zach Auguste layup with 14:18 remaining in first half (11-10 ND).
"Monmouth would wilt, right?"
Not exactly! The Hawks traded blow after blow with the Fighting Irish for the next six minutes purely on heart alone before Notre Dame fought to a 37-29 halftime lead thanks to a 15-8 run led by V.J. Beachem and Bonzie Colson, who both netted six apiece.
"Okay, now, Monmouth will get obliterated into a million feathers! Right?"
Nope! Right out of the intermission, the Hawks caught a favorable breeze and tied the game at 39.
Back and forth the two squads exchanged baskets. That was, until Notre Dame forgot how to "put the biscuit in the basket" resulting in only one made field goal (4 points) during a 4 minute and 30 seconds span.
How was Monmouth doing during this time you ask? They were soaring high! Micah Seaborn made layup. Deon Jones made layup. Je'lon Hornbeak from downtown! Chris Brady made jumper. Micah Seaborn with another deuce! In other words, the Hawks had a 62-51 lead with only 7:33 remaining!
But, every team has a second half run in them, and Mike Brey's group is no exception. On the perseverance and scoring ability of Auguste and "jazzy junior" Demetrius Jackson, the Fighting Irish tied the barn burner at 68 with 32 tics on the clock. Monmouth had the ball, and the arena was silent as Robinson has possession at the top of the key. Next, he started his pursuit to the rim. Off the mark! Then, the whistle blew and the PA announcer said, "Foul on number eleven Demetrius Jackson." The Notre Dame crowd was furious, for their superstar seemed to have made little to no contact with his counterpart.
The pressure fell onto the shoulders of Monmouth's Robinson, who happened to enter "City Beautiful" with a free throw percentage of 92.9%. Swish! Swish!
Notre Dame had no timeouts as Steve Vasturia took the ball out of the net with 3.6 seconds remaining. Vasturia inbounded to a curling Jackson. Jackson then rushed the ball up court prior to heaving a desperation shot on the other side of midcourt. High and off the mark! The Monmouth Hawks had collected their first win over a Top 25 opponent in school history.
Turning Over A New Leaf
With Monmouth's upset victory, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference experienced its first win in the event since 2012 and its first team in the winner's bracket since 2011.
Fundamentals Do Matter
Inhabiting a power conference such as the ACC, one would imagine Notre Dame would have won the turnover and free throw battle. Not today! The Hawks did a tremendous job taking care of the ball this evening (6 turnovers) while the Fighting Irish's big three (Jackson, Vasturia, and Auguste) had twice as many (12)! Additionally, Notre Dame cost themselves points at the charity stripe, where they made only 8 of 17 attempts (47.1%). To put this in perspective, Monmouth's Justin Robinson was 14 from 15 in the free throw department.
Tonight's Remaining Advocare Invitational Action
9:00 PM EST
3-0 Iowa - 3-0 Dayton (ESPN2)
Players to Watch:
Jarrod Uthoff (SR)
---16.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, & 2.0 SPG.
Charles Cooke (JR)
---15.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, & 1.3 BPG.
Coverage of tonight's finale as well as all contests from the HP Field House in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, will be found on VAVEL US.