WEST LONG BRANCH – Even during tough times, Monmouth’s always been a pretty good home team.
But in a sign of just how challenging the current season’s been, the Hawks got run out of their building for the second straight game.
After Charlotte won by 36 points at OceanFirst Bank Center last Saturday, the biggest home loss in 12 years, Yale was up 37 points midway through the second half, settling for a 76-44 victory at OceanFirst Bank Center Thursday night.
It’s been spiraling to this point, having lost games by an average of 23 points. They lost to Princeton and Rider by the most points ever in each of those longstanding Central Jersey rivalries.
The Hawks have now equaled the 1-12 start of the 2018-19 team, which actually started 0-12. That team rallied to win 14 games and came within a game of returning to the NCAA Tournament, losing in the MAAC Tournament final.
It will be tough for this young group, with three freshman, two sophomores and a walk-on among its 10 healthy players, to make such a rally, especially with their first-ever Colonial Athletic Association season set to begin next Wednesday with a visit from a 10-3 UNC Wilmington team.
“You have to fight. You have to show how much you care by your play and right now that is not what we’re showing,” Monmouth coach King Rice said.
“Everybody gets a chance here and everybody is getting their chance and right now it’s not working. We will keep evaluating everything, keep evaluating what we’re doing, keep everything in the program and when there’s time we’ll make some different things happen.”
It’s unclear if Monmouth has ever scored as few as 16 points in a half, which is what they got in the opening 20 minutes against Yale, as the Bulldogs pulled out to a 40-16 lead at the break. Even guard Jakari Spence’s 3/4-court buzzer-beater to end the first half was negated after an official review.
Yale improved to 10-3. Forward E.J. Jarvis finishing with 16 points, leading four Bulldogs in double-figures.
Monmouth was led by junior forward Myles Foster’s 17 points.
For much of the night it appeared Monmouth would have one of its lowest point totals since it became a Division I program in 1983, well below the 40-point mark for much of the game before a late surge.
Here are some takeaways from Monmouth’s latest loss:
Lack of teamwork
Rice once again pointed to his players’ selfish nature during games, wanting to be the scorer rather than setting up teammates.
“We talk about it all the time – five guys as one,” Rice said. “All the teams we play, that is what they do. We’re the team that won’t move the ball around to get the best shot, so you always lose by a whole bunch.
”My teams don’t play that way but right now everybody is in a new role so we’ve got to deal with the ups and down of it – the downs of it. There hasn’t been many ups, so we’ll deal with it and keep working, and eventually we’ll be a different team.”
Lid on the basket
Monmouth’s shooting woes continued all game. They hit just two of their first 14 shots, and for the game shot 32 percent from the floor, and hit just 3-of-15 from beyond the three-point line. They weren’t much better from the free throw line, either, hitting on 5-of-14.
The Hawks have to be able to knock down shots consistently, and right now no one can.
The loss was Monmouth’s 10th of the season by 15 points or more, and the body language on the court was telling in the first half. Rice, however, feels the players need to push themselves forward.
“If someone else has to keep your head up you already lost,” he said. “This is college basketball. We are in this hole because of us.”
The Monmouth players now go home for a Christmas break, return to campus to practice twice on Dec. 26. Could a few days away end up being a fresh start, mentally and physically?
“We’ll see. I’m not a fortune teller. I’ll be ready when they get back,” Rice said.
“The teams coming in are just as good or better. We have a break after the 28th, we don’t play again until Jan. 5. I think that will give us some time to improve. But guys got to understand that basketball is five guys playing as one and then you can be good. We’re not playing together.”
Monmouth basketball: Brutal non-conference slate ends. Here are 5 keys vs. Yale
WEST LONG BRANCH – Mercifully, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule ends tonight with Yale’s visit to OceanFirst Bank Center.
I think we can all agree, and coach King Rice has said, it was way too difficult for this young group, as the Hawks sit at 1-11, with their first Colonial Athletic Conference campaign still to come.
Monmouth has a NET of 354 out of 363 Division 1 schools. Yale (9-3), sits at 48, the sixth non-conference foe in the NET top 100, and 10th in the top 200.
The CAA has six teams in the NET top 200, including No. 77 UNC Wilmington, which comes to the Jersey Shore next Wednesday for Monmouth’s first-ever CAA game.
The Hawks go straight from the frying pan into the fire, still in survival mode with nine losses by 15 points or more, including a 36-point loss to Charlotte last time out that ranks as the worst home loss in 12 years.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m., with the game broadcast on SNY and NBC Sports Philadelphia, and streamed on FloSports. Here are five keys for the Hawks:
1. More stops
Monmouth has to figure out a way to play better defense, whether it’s more trapping, extended pressure, some zone, whatever. The Hawks are last in the country in both field goal percentage defense and three-point percentage defense, and third from the bottom in scoring defense. It can’t get worse, and there’s little let-up in the schedule.
Matt Knowling, a 6-6 forward, tops the Bulldogs in scoring (16.2 ppg.) and rebounding (4.7 rpg.).
2. Play faster
The numbers on offense aren’t much better. And the Hawks really struggle in the half-court against a solid man-to-man defense, as was the case against Charlotte. Upping the tempo a little, which isn’t easy without defensive stops, would help open things up a little.
3. Back to basics
Protect the ball and share the ball are two of basketball’s foundational principals, which is why assist-to-turnover ratio is so important. The last game really was rock-bottom in this area, with Monmouth turning the ball over 17 times, and dishing out just four assists, while Charlotte had 18 assists and nine turnovers. That’s how you lose by 36 points at home.
4. Show progress
Monmouth has shown an ability to play well in stretches, but simply can’t sustain it over 40 minutes. Now it has to start showing signs of progress in terms of closing that gap at both ends of the court. Only three times have Monmouth been within single digits in the final minutes.
5. Be competitive
The intensity Monmouth shows from the moment it emerges from the locker room until the final buzzer truly is the only thing they can control. Given the other limitations, it has to be off the charts every night. And against a team like Yale, nothing else will do.