ALBANY, NY – The Times Union Center showcased two of the nine highest scoring Division I men’s basketball individual performances in facility history Monday night. Senior guard Marquis Wright scored a career-high 36 points, but reigning MAAC Player of the Year Justin Robinson erupted for a career-best 40 to lead defending MAAC Regular Season Champion, preseason favorite, and league frontunner Monmouth past Siena Basketball 102-82.
Robinson scored 28 of his points in the second half for Monmouth (22-5, 14-2) which extended its program record win streak to 12 straight. The unanimous MAAC Preseason Player of the Year finished 14-20 from the field, including 8-13 from three for the Hawks which are receiving two votes in this week’s AP Top-25 Poll.
Meanwhile Wright shot 11-19 and made a career-high six threes in scoring the most points by a Siena (12-15, 9-7) player since Edwin Ubiles poured in 37 in a loss here against a Jimmy Patsos led Loyola team on Feb. 16, 2008.
Robinson tied Billy Baron of Canisius (Feb. 16, 2014) for the fourth most points scored in arena history, while Wright’s effort matched Robinson’s then career-high 36-point performance here in the most recent meeting between the programs last February.
The first of two highly anticipated matchups over the next 11 days between the two teams projected to finish first and second according to the MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll lived up to its billing for the first 27 minutes, as four ties and 11 lead changes were exchanged.
The Hawks led by as many as 10 points in a first half in which they shot 59%, but the Saints shot 55% themselves to hang around. Siena ended the opening stanza with a flurry, as Wright nailed a transition three moments before the first half expired to rally the Saints within 47-46 at the break. The 93 combined points were tied for the most in a first half of a Siena Basketball game since at least the start of the 2001-02 season.
Wright carried his momentum over into the second half scoring 11 of the Saints’ first 13 points, and drilled back-to-back triples to give Siena its final lead at 59-57 with 15:31 to play. But Monmouth responded with a 15-1 run over just 3:39 to quickly reclaim a 72-60 advantage with 10:51 to play. The Saints could get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way as the Hawks won for the sixth time in seven meetings between the programs since joining the MAAC.
Je’lon Hornbeak contributed 18 points for the Hawks which shot 57.6% from the field, including 13-24 from distance. Austin Tilghman added 11 points off the bench, and Josh James scored 10 for Monmouth which won its 10th true road game this season and sixth straight.
Senior forward Javion Ogunyemi tallied 16 points on 6-7 shooting for Siena whose 54% shooting effort wasn’t enough to avoid the team’s third straight home loss after starting 7-1. Sophomore guard Nico Clareth added 11 points off the bench in reaching double figures for the third straight game since returning from a seven-game leave of absence.
The Hawks held a 32-23 advantage in rebounding, and a 44-24 margin in points in the paint against a Saints’ squad which had entered play a league-best +6.6 on the glass in conference play. A game after tying for its fewest turnovers committed in at least 16 years, Siena turned the ball over 19 times to help fuel Monmouth’s 28-14 advantage in points off turnovers.
The 102 points allowed by the Saints marked the program’s most bequeathed since a 103-95 overtime loss here vs. Quinnipiac on Feb. 1, 2014, and tied for the most in a regulation contest since a 104-83 defeat at Niagara on Jan. 7, 2001. It also marked the most points allowed by Siena in this facility in a regulation game since a 106-90 MAAC Tournament loss vs. La Salle on Mar. 4, 1990, in the final game the Saints played here before moving into the arena on a semi-permanent basis the following season.
The Saints continue their challenging four-game, eight day stretch – and their season-long three-game homestand – when they host Manhattan at the Times Union Center Thursday night at 7 p.m.