Brady, Robinson aid Monmouth in battle for 1st place over Canisius

By Marshall Haim

Assistant Sports Editor

Chris Brady and Justin Robinson are two of the best offensive players for the Monmouth Hawks. They proved that by combining for 43 points, aiding the Hawks to claim sole possession of first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) standings in a 76-72 over the Canisius Golden Griffins on Monday night.

First place was on the line for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) on Monday, which geared toward a highly anticipated battle. Both teams already met in West Long Branch, N.J. earlier in December, with Monmouth winning in a thriller. Monday’s game was also a thrilling game for the 1,684 spectators at the Koessler Athletic Center, but the result stayed the same going toward the Hawks.

Brady, a 6-foot-11 center, converted on his first 11 field goal attempts before finishing the night 11-of-12 from the field, scoring a team-best 22 points. While Robinson, a two-time All-First Team MAAC selection, started the game off slow scoring six points in the first half  before ending the contest with 21 points and eight assists, while playing all 40 minutes.

“It was a hard fought game. We got down, we had to fight back and fought back, but our frustration level exceeded our level of poise for a while,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “Give Monmouth credit, they’re a very, very good team.”

“Reggie Witherspoon is one of the best men doing it in this business,” said King Rice, Monmouth’s head coach, about Witherspoon. “He’s a great coach, I always watch him from afar. I knew him off the court but I never watched his teams before he came into his league. He’s outstanding how he carries himself, how he coaches and how his kids respond. Canisius – you should be the happiest people in the world that you have him as your coach, he’s top shelf.”

Canisius had a hard time defending Brady throughout the game, but Robinson became was difficult to guard, especially in the second half. Upon a technical foul called on Jermaine Crumpton, early in the second half, forcing Crumpton to sit at least 14 minutes on the bench, minutes later Witherspoon tossed his suit coat jacket, riling the Koessler Athletic Center crowd immensely.

When asked about the crowd noise to Robinson, he said it did not affect him at all.

“It’s not difficult to me,” Robinson said. “I’m focused on all the other four guys that are in the blue uniforms. To me, the crowd sounds like Charlie Brown’s parents.”

With the crowd noise aside, one of the reasons for the success Brady had throughout the game was the lack of size of the Griffs. Selvedin Planincic, the tallest player on Canisius at 6-foot-11, played 17 minutes, but Brady saw most of his success when facing defenders four, five and six inches shorter than him.

“Coach (King Rice) has been on all the big men, especially me, to want the ball in the post,” Brady said about the opposition. “It’s just a want to on the big’s end, not on the guard’s and coaches’ end.”

Canisius’ started sluggish, offensively, going 2-of-11 from the field in the opening minutes. However, in the second half, the Griffs heated up shooting 46.9 percent (compared to the Griffs’ 38.7 clip in the first half). Kiefer Douse made great plays, both shooting and passing, leading the Griffs with team-high 16 points, while adding three assists. Phil Valenti added a double-double in the loss scoring 14 points and bringing down 12 rebounds. Kassius Robertson chipped in with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Canisius powered their way to score 40 points in the 2nd half, which was partially aided due to the said crowd noise. Robertson credits the crowd for giving the team an added boost and hopes the crowd’s support continues.

“It’s always amazing to see fans come out and try and pack the KAC every time we play,” he said. “The support is definitely beneficial, we’re tying to protect our home as much as we can. But, we couldn’t get it done tonight.”

Canisius (12-7, 5-3), with the loss, assumes second place in the MAAC standings. The Griffs will travel to Hamden, Connecticut on Friday before they will face bitter rival Niagara next Monday. Quinnipiac (7-11, 4-4) sits in the middle of the standings, while Niagara (2-6, 5-14) is currently in last place in the conference. Canisius defeated Quinnipiac, 83-77, on Jan. 6 at home, while the Griffs have not yet played Niagara. Upon their meeting next Monday, the two will battle again on Feb. 10 at home.

Monmouth (14-5, 6-2), the favorite to win the entire conference in the preseason poll, will return home to play the first of a three-game home stand against Manhattan on Friday.

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