BUFFALO, NEW YORK---Flying high from a fantastic weekend at ESPN's Wide World of Sports, 2015 Advocare Invitational Most Valuable Player Justin Robinson and his Monmouth Hawks were back to the cold northeast. Though, tonight didn't bring a game in which King Rice's team could boost their resumé but one that, if lost, would hurt them greatly.
Unfortunately for the state of New Jersey and Monmouth nation, if would end up doing so as the Canisius Golden Griffins flew away with a 94-86 victory.
Starting the game with a pair of threes and eight points in less than 91 seconds, Canisius immediately seized momentum with an 8-0 run. Yet, it would be short-lived, for Zac Tillman and Oklahoma transfer Je'lon Hornbeak woke up the sleeping Hawks with twelve quick points to spur their team on a 17-3 run (17-11 MON). Now this was the Monmouth team everyone fell in love with against Notre Dame and USC!
However, the Hawks didn't pull away like a fan who just started watching them a week ago would have thought. Jim Baron's crew fought back thanks to, not one, not two, not three, but four consecutive attempts that tickled the twine from beyond the arc (23-20 CAN)! Building on their hot shooting, freshman Chris Atkinson picked the best time of the season to discover his high school shooting stroke as he nailed two of his career high four treys in a little over a minute to soar the Golden Griffins to a 34-22 advantage.
But wait! There's more!
Later in the first half the nation's 11th leading scorer (MAAC's 3rd) Malcolm McMillan (scored a team-high 22 this evening) went on a personal 8-2 spurt to increase their lead to a then game-high 18.
Where was the NCAA's 6th leading scorer (MAAC's 2nd) Justin Robinson? What was going on with the Hawks?
Because of acquiring his second foul at the 7:15 mark, coach Rice subbed out his superstar to avoid him picking up his third. That was until Monmouth was inbounding the ball with four seconds remaining until the intermission.
The score was 53-34 Canisius and the Golden Griffins were seeking a big defensive stop to take into halftime. They wouldn't get it since Robinson, who was fresh off the pine, nailed a triple at the horn for his second made attempt of the first half! 53-37 Canisius!
C'mon, one three-pointer doesn't make that big of a difference!
On the contrary, my friend!
Exiting the locker room for the second twenty minutes, the 5'8" Monmouth point guard doubled his point total (from 6 to 12) in a matter of seconds (43 to be exact) with a pair of treys! We had ourselves a ballgame!
For the next nine minutes, the tempo sped back up while the teams traded baskets. In fact, the Hawks failed to decrease the facing deficit at a quick rate as it took them nine minutes to dwindle it down to 8!
Nevertheless, Monmouth kept fighting and drew within five after a layup by Pierre Sarr. The Hawks finally had the distance decreased to two possessions. But even so, Atkinson quickly re-upped his squad's lead with another three pointer. And unlike the others, this one led to the final nail in the coffin of Monmouth as Robinson could not single-handedly do enough down the stretch in the defeat.
Not As Close As We Thought
Entering tonight's showdown with the last four head-to-head bouts being decided by a total of 16 points, MAAC fans thought tonight would a down to the wire contest. Turned out they were wrong. Even though Monmouth was down only five with 8:07 remaining in regulation, Canisius did a good job of doing what Notre Dame and Dayton could not: Putting the Hawks away! The Golden Griffins couldn't have a quicker turnaround schedule-wise, for they host Quinnipiac back at the Koessler Athletic Center tomorrow evening.
Hmm, This Was Disappointing
Not too many times does a mid-major the size of the Monmouth receive a vote in the AP Poll. Sadly, they won't next week. Falling from "Cloud 9" like a brick dropped at 5,000 feet, King Rice's team's at-large hopes have withered away and most likely evaporated. Yet, the fact that this defeat came with the "Big Three" of Robinson, Hornbeak, and Micah Seaborn combining for 58 points is very disturbing. Think about this, during their upset win over Notre Dame the trio produced 49 points while versus UCLA they had only 37. But 58 couldn't get the job done against conference rival Canisius? Defense must be a key in practice tomorrow before the Hawks try to avoid a 0-2 conference start Sunday afternoon against Niagara.