By Kevin Sweeney
Everything was going according to plan for the Monmouth Hawks.
They were in complete control early in the second half and appeared in position to rest their stars down the stretch as they gear up for the MAAC semifinals.
Then, Micah Seaborn went down.
The 1st-team All-MAAC selection did not return after appearing to injure his left knee early in the second half. He left the floor without putting any weight on his knee and returned from the locker room later on crutches with a large bag of ice on his knee.
“He’s been playing with a torn meniscus. It was before our second Rider game when it happened.” King Rice said postgame on Seaborn, per @DalyDoseOfHoops/Twitter. “I think he just reaggravated it. We’re hopeful that, with the day off, he’ll be back and good to go on Sunday.”
In game action, the Hawks had little trouble with Niagara, cruising to an 84-59 victory despite a slow start. Louie Pillari came off the bench to lead all scorers with a career-high 16 points for Monmouth.
Niagara, in search of a massive upset, got out to the start they wanted to, standing toe-to-toe with the Hawks early in the first half. However, they let the game get away from them late in the opening session, conceding a 23-6 half-closing run after they had tied the game at 24 to go into halftime trailing 47-30. After a slow start, MAAC Player of the Year Justin Robinson heated up and orchestrated the offense to perfection late in the half, setting up Pillari with good looks from downtown and getting the ball down low to senior center Chris Brady.
That run would prove decisive, as the Purple Eagles never pulled within 15 in the second half. The Hawks were able to rest Robinson and fellow senior guard Je’Lon Hornbeak for much of the second half. Robinson played just 25 minutes, and Hornbeak played just 17.
Monmouth’s defense held Niagara to just 28.6% shooting on the night, and limited Purple Eagle stars Matt Scott and Kahlil Dukes to a combined 15 points on 7-32 shooting.
Eleven Hawks scored in the game, including 14 from Robinson, 13 from Brady, and 10 from MAAC 6th Man of the Year Austin Tilghman.
Monmouth advances to take on the winner of Siena and Fairfield Sunday afternoon with a berth in the MAAC title game on the line.