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Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Monmouth's sweet season continues with first-ever win over Rutgers

Monmouth's bench was happy after 73-67 win over Rutgers. (AP Photo)

Piscataway >> Monmouth’s year of firsts keeps getting sweeter.

The Hawks added a first-ever victory over Rutgers on Sunday to a list that now includes five wins against power-conference opposition.

They’ve beaten UCLA, Notre Dame, USC, Georgetown and Rutgers. A list so impressive head coach King Rice couldn’t even remember how many ‘big-time’ schools his team had been up against.

“We felt like we had a good team, but you could never expect something like this to happen,” Rice said after the Hawks held off the Scarlet Knights, 73-67, at the RAC. “By the time each game gets here, I have myself 100 percent believing if we do certain things, we can win the game.”

There’s nothing fluky about what Monmouth is doing.

Led by junior point guard Justin Robinson, a 5-foot-8 dynamo, who should be on the Naismith Award watch list, and a deep roster, the Hawks (8-3) are in the spotlight. And even if the wonderful bench mob has brought the national media to West Long Branch, the players on the court are NCAA Tournament quality.

“Coming into the season, we felt we could beat anybody,” said senior guard Deon Jones, who had 12 points, including a huge reverse layup after Rutgers rallied back from a 13-point deficit to tie the game. “They put their stuff on just like we do. We never underestimate ourselves, and we just go into every game thinking we can win.”

Chris Brady’s put-back with 59 seconds remaining gave Monmouth a 2-point lead and Rutgers’ Mike Williams missed an open 3-pointer on the next possession.

Robinson led Monmouth with 14 points, Collin Stewart had 11 off the bench and Brady chipped in nine and 10 rebounds.

Robinson was determined to win this game after the way last season’s ended. Robinson, of course, missed a free throw, opening the door for the Scarlet Knights’ Myles Mack to hit a game-winner at the buzzer.

“This one feels a little more special to me, just because of what happened last year,” Robinson said. “We lost on a buzzer beater last year. That was our whole thing this year, and that wasn’t happening again. If it came down to the wire, we were going to win the game. That was our whole attitude coming into the game.”

With an eighth victory — five against power conference opposition and all away from home — could the Hawks be destined for the top 25?

“Talking about it to me is like, ‘Coach, what are you going to do when you win the championship? I haven’t done that yet, so I have no idea,’” Rice said. “We’re a group that just wants to keep working. This is what I say to them: ‘Just keep your heads low guys. Keep coming every single day. Just keep coming and get a little bit better every single day and all the things we’re supposed to get, we will get.’”

Monmouth has road trips to Cornell and Army before Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play resumes in January. The Hawks have already lost once in the MAAC, so they know there’s a target on their back.

“We’re making history right now, so the spotlight is on us,” junior guard Josh James said. “Everyone wants to come and beat us and rain on our parade. I think we’re able to handle it. We have a group of veterans here, and just like today, we fought through. I fell like we can do that in any other game, so we’re ready to handle anything that comes at us.”


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