To open the 2015-16 season, the Monmouth Hawks have been one of the biggest surprises across the entire country, and they have become one of America’s favourite teams. An upset victory to open the season and a third-place finish at the AdvoCare Invitational highlight their on-court accomplishments, but the celebrations of their bench have people raving about the Hawks. However, their on-court accomplishments are what people should be talking about, and they will look to add another big win to their resume on Sunday afternoon.
Their opponent on Sunday, the Niagara Purple Eagles, are a team that the Hawks cannot afford to take lightly. Despite a down year last season, the Purple Eagles have shown flashes of strong play to start the 2015-16 campaign. While they currently sit at 3-5 on the year, they have been competitive against stronger competition, and have impressed in their wins. On their home floor, Niagara will be looking to knock off the Hawks to start conference play with a 2-0 record, and to show people that they can hang with the top teams in the MAAC this season.
Sunday presents an important contest for both teams, as the Hawks are looking to get their first conference win of the year, while Niagara is looking to knock off their second-straight contender in the MAAC. College Court Report will be LIVE at the game, and here’s everything you need to know about the contest that could go a long way for both teams in MAAC play this season.
Time: 2:00pm EST
Location: Gallagher Arena, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Monmouth Hawks (4-3, 0-1)
The Monmouth Hawks have burst onto the scene this season, and didn’t waste any time in doing so. In their season-opener, they went on the road and took down the UCLA Bruins inside the historic Pauley Pavilion.
Little did we know, but that was just the start of the magic that Monmouth had up their sleeves. Down in Orlando at the AdvoCare Invitational, the Hawks came away with a third-place finish. What makes their strong finish more remarkable is that they took down the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the opening round, and USC in the third-place game. Sandwich in a three-point loss to Dayton, and the Hawks did not look like the smallest program in the tournament.
Monmouth game down to Earth a little bit in their last outing, falling to Canisius in an offensive shootout in their conference opener, 96-86. The Golden Griffins led by 16 points at half-time, and the Hawks were never able to contend in the second half.
In the Hawks’ hot start, the college basketball world has been formally introduced to the talents of star scoring guard Justin Robinson. Standing at just 5’8” tall, Robinson doesn’t let his height limit his style of play, or his production. The junior is one of the nation’s top scorers to open the season, averaging a team-high 24.6 points per game to go along with 3.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per contest. He is shooting 45.9% from the floor, and 46.8% from three point range. He has the shooting ability to score from anywhere on the floor, and is not afraid to drive the lane and finish at the rim.
If the Hawks want to score a win over Niagara on Sunday, Oklahoma-transfer Je’Lon Hornbeak will need to find his groove. In his first season with the Hawks, Hornbeak is averaging 9.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest, while shooting a perfect 100% (16-of-16) from the free throw line. Now, his statistics aren’t bad by any means, but he was expected to be a leader on this team and he hasn’t reached his full potential as of yet. The season is young, and the Hawks have done well without him at his best. If he can kick things up another notch, the Hawks will be flying high in 2015-16.
Niagara Purple Eagles (3-5, 1-0)
Heading into last season, the Purple Eagles were dealt a blow when Antoine Mason transferred to Auburn. This season, Niagara had to deal with the transfer of Ramone Snowden. With two star-calibre players leaving in the last two seasons, the Purple Eagles have kept fighting, and have played relatively will this season after a down year a season ago.
The Purple Eagles enter Sunday afternoon with a 3-5 record, which may not indicate strong play this season. However, they were competitive in their losses to Saint Joseph’s and Hartford, and have scored wins over strong teams in Brown and North Carolina A&T. Then, on Friday night, they knocked off the Quinnipiac Bobcats in their MAAC opener, 74-70. The Bobcats have been a top contending team in the conference over the last few seasons, so a win for Niagara is a nice feather in their cap.
In the absence of Snowden, who transferred to James Madison, the Purple Eagles have been led by the duo of Emile Blackman and Matt Scott. Both Scott and Blackman put up 20 points in the Purple Eagles’ win over Quinnipiac, and are the leaders of the team on offense. Scott is averaging a team-high 17.4 points per contest to go along with 6.3 rebounds (tied for team-high). Not to be outdone, Blackman is averaging 13.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game through Niagara’s first 8 games. They provide the Purple Eagles with a viable 1-2 option on the offensive end of the floor, and that’s good news moving forwards.
With Scott being a sophomore this season and Blackman being a redshirt junior, the future of the back court looks good at Niagara.
Add in Justin Satchell, who is averaging 11.4 points per game, and the Purple Eagles have a viable third scoring option on the offensive end of the floor. Satchell gives the Purple Eagles a go-to option in the paint, and forces teams to be honest in their defensive coverage. If they shadow the guards too much, Satchell can go to work in the paint, and vice versa if they focus on him in the paint as opposed to the guards.
Players to Watch
Justin Robinson (G) – 24.6 ppg 3.0 rpg, 3.1 apg
Micah Seaborn (G) – 14.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 apg
Deon Jones (G) – 7.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.9 apg
Niagara Purple Eagles
Matt Scott (G) – 17.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.6 apg
Emile Blackman (G) – 14.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.8 apg
Marvin Prochet (F) – 8.6 pgg, 4.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg
Sunday afternoon brings forth a great opportunity for both programs. For Monmouth, a second straight loss in conference play would all but end any momentum the Hawks gained from their early-season success. No team has started 0-2 in MAAC play and received a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Hawks don’t want to fall into that category, so look for them to come out strong from the outset.
As for the Purple Eagles, Sunday afternoon presents them with another great opportunity to make a statement in MAAC play. They could score their second straight victory, and knock off a top contending team in the conference. They will need to get the hometown crowd involved early on, and take an early lead and get stops on defense.
We will be front and center for this contest, in what promises to be a must-watch contest in the MAAC on Sunday afternoon.