Photo by Bobby O'Hara

Monmouth men's basketball progression since joining CAA

The Monmouth Hawks men's basketball (3-20, 2-8 CAA) captured a hard-fought victory over the Delaware Blue Hens (12-12, 4-7 CAA), 70-62, to earn their first two-game win streak of the season. Junior Myles Foster led the Hawks with 16 points helping them capture their first home victory this season.

Monmouth Struggling To Adjust To CAA

This past summer, Monmouth University's athletics began a new era when they joined the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The upgrade they made back in July will magnify the competition for their athletics, joining one of the top mid-major conferences in the NCAA. 

Monmouth men's basketball has had a rough adjustment from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) to the CAA, going 1-8 in their first nine CAA games. Everyone knew this move would be a process for the Hawks' athletic programs, but it is a shame to see the basketball team struggle, picking up just two wins through their first 22 games this season. 

They only have two wins on the season thus far, but their past two conference games provide clear evidence that this team has made strides since joining their new conference. Last Thursday, the Hawks found themselves in their first battle in the CAA, losing to UNC Wilmington (17-6, 7-3) for the second time this season, 52-49. Previously, the Hawks were dominated in their first seven conference games, losing by 11 points or more. 

During this North Carolina road trip, the Hawks traveled to Greensboro two days later to play North Carolina A&T (11-13, 6-5 CAA), where they captured their first CAA victory in program history. The Hawks sticking around with UNC Wilmington brought great confidence for the Hawks as they played great team basketball scoring their season-high in points, winning 79-64. North Carolina A&T had a 6-4 record in conference play as the Hawks earned themselves a good victory in their first conference win.

 The Hawks hoped this North Carolina road trip could ignite the spark for the rest of the season, bringing confidence back down the shore. They were able to hang with two top-five teams in the CAA after a rough beginning stretch of conference play, so now it was time to bring a victory for the fans back at OceanFirst Bank Center.

Delaware vs. Monmouth

On Thursday, the Hawks were hopeful they could pick up their first win at home over Delaware. With only two wins on the season coming into this game, all the Hawks could do was continue to build during their adjustment to the CAA.

 The Hawks fought strong in their throwdown at home in the first half against Delaware. With five minutes left in the first half, the Hawks were down 26-15. The Hawks battled their way back before the end of the half, decreasing the lead to 29-25 at the half.

The Hawks came out of the gates firing in the second half. With 14:31 left in the game, freshmen Jack Collins knocked down a three-pointer giving Monmouth their first lead since 16:38 in the first half, 36-35.

Later in the final half, junior Myles Ruth had a fantastic hook shot that gave Monmouth a five-point lead with 11:07 remaining. Their confidence from their road trip was finally bringing life to the Hawks fans here in New Jersey. 

Delaware was looking to keep the Hawks winless at home, bringing the lead back to one. With 7:07 remaining, there were signs of growth for the Hawks as they did not panic. Foster and Collins were determined to get Monmouth their first two-game win streak of the season, combining for seven points to bring the Hawks' lead to eight with 6:10 to go.

In the final three minutes, free throws and forcing turnovers were the factor of Monmouth's close victory over Delaware. Monmouth created turnovers when it mattered, causing four turnovers to help capture their first home victory this season, 70-62. 

Four of the Hawks' starters scored in double figures as the stars are starting to align for this young team. Monmouth has only one senior on the team who comes off the bench, as they are filled with young talent. 

These past three games have shown that the Hawks are beginning to progress in their first season in the CAA. The Hawks will now look to build off these past three games going into their final eight games of the season.

With only one senior on the Hawks' roster and being the new kid on the block in CAA, the Hawks will look to bring in more highly-rated recruits than they have had in the past next season. The rebuild is finally starting to align, and Hawks fans are excited to see what the CAA will hold for them in the future.

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