By Kevin Sweeney
Winning 11 straight games wasn’t enough for Monmouth fans. The Hawk faithful had been frustrated by some lackluster performances of late, including a few close calls against lower-tier MAAC teams.
The 12th win in the streak came with much more style.
Justin Robinson lit up Siena for a career-high 40 points, and the Hawks pulled away late for a 102-82 victory on the same floor they hope to be playing on 3 weeks from today in the MAAC Championship game.
The game was tight and very exciting for most of the night, yet that will likely be overshadowed by the final score.
The Saints hung right with the Hawks throughout the first half, using 17 first half points from Marquis Wright to stay within one at the break. Siena closed the half on a 15-7 run, capped by a 3 by Wright to draw within 47-46 in the final seconds. The momentum seemed to grow for the Saints in the first half when Robinson left the floor for around 5 minutes at the 7:33 mark in the half. Monmouth lost their flow offensively, while Siena chipped away with what was a 10 point Hawk lead. Despite the slim lead, Monmouth had to feel pretty good about themselves at halftime. They were shooting 6-12 from 3, had forced turnovers, and were even winning the rebounding margin, which were all keys if they wanted to escape Albany with a win.
Wright, who exploded for a career-high 36 points in the game, did everything he push the Saints ahead in the opening stages of the second half. He scored 11 points, including three triples, in less than 5 minutes to start the half and push the Saints to a 59-57 advantage at the first media timeout of the second half. The momentum was with Siena, and the crowd was fired up.
However, the Hawks did what good, senior-laden teams do and responded to adversity, using a 15-1 run to quiet the crowd and take a 12 point lead halfway through the second half. As Robinson heated up, Wright was slowed down, as Monmouth Head Coach King Rice switched the bigger Micah Seaborn onto Wright.
Robinson, the cousin of former Siena star Tay Fisher, continued to sink the Saints each time they tried to draw closer. With Saints hanging tough with 3 minutes to go, Robinson sunk a dagger 4-point play to extend the Monmouth lead to 16. From there, things were mostly procedural, with Siena emptying their bench a minute later.
While Siena expected to dominate inside, that really wasn’t the case tonight. The Saints were outscored 44-24 in the paint, and 2 of the 3 Siena bigs, Lavon Long and Brett Bisping, were held to just 13 points and 8 rebounds combined.
“Lavon and Brett have to play better if we’re going to beat Monmouth.” Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos said, per Mark Singelais/Twitter.
The win all but seals a MAAC regular season title for the Hawks, who improve to 22-5, 14-2 in the MAAC. Je’Lon Hornbeak posted 18 points, while Austin Tilghman added 11 points off the bench.
Siena fell to 12-15 overall, 9-7 in the MAAC. It’s the third straight home loss for the Saints, who have won 4 straight on the road. That’s certainly a strange trend, considering Siena lost its first 10 road games this season while starting 7-1 at home.