Late Rally Fuels Monmouth Past Pioneers, 63-56

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ (February 2, 2012) – Junior Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) scored 16 of his game–high 22 points in the second half but Monmouth used a 17-2 run over the last 2:24 to come away with a 63-56 Northeast Conference win at The MAC Thursday night.  The Pioneers led 54-46 with 2:31 to play but a pair of turnovers and missed free throws helped fuel Monmouth game changing run.

Despite 50-32 edge on the glass, the Pioneers were plagued all night by 21 turnovers and just an eight-for-eighteen effort at the free throw line.  Sophomore Luis Montes (Brockton, MA) recorded a double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds and despite going scoreless, junior Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ) tied his season-high with 11 boards.

It took both teams over six minutes to find their offense, combining to shoot two-for-18 with SHU up 3-2.  The Pioneers found their legs first as Gibson ended the drought with a lay-in at 13:58, forcing a MU time-out.  Out of the break, point guard Phil Gaetano (Wallingford, CT) found Gibson cutting back-door for another easy two.  The Pioneers made it a 9-2 lead thanks to a block by Swidowski and pass up court to freshman Steve Glowiak (New Britain, CT) for a break-away lay-up at 12:20.

Monmouth's Ed Waite ended a one-for-15 streak with a put-back off rebound to get the Hawks rolling and with 7:53 left, Dion Nesmith drilled a three from the wing to tie game at 11-11.   The Hawks took their first lead since 2-0 thanks to back-to-back three's from Andrew Nicholas, going up 20-19 with 4:14 left in the half.  Will Campbell drilled a three from right wing in transition to put the Hawks 23-21.  SHU closed out the half with a Gibson jumper and a Gaetano three to head to the locker room up 28-25.  The Pioneers rebounded from their slow start to shot 41.9%

The Hawks tied the game at 33-33 on a Waite dunk and went up 35-33 on a Nesmith jumper but the Pioneers responded and built their lead to 41-35.  Gibson fueled the run with consecutive three's followed by a fast-break bucket to lead by six with under 13 to play.  MU cut it to 47-46 on a Marcus Ware long jumper and a steal and lay-in by Jesse Steele.  SHU would again respond and take their biggest lead of the night with 2:31 left with a 7-0 spurt.

Four-straight makes at the foul line was followed by an Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT) long three to push the Pioneers lead to 53-46 with 3:34 left.  SHU had a chance to extend the lead at the foul line but Gibson would make just one of two to put the Pioneers up 54-46 with 2:31 to play.  That free throw would be the last SHU points until a Kelley lay-in with 13 seconds left to play.  In between, the Hawks rattled off a 13-0 run to seize control and steal the game.

Steele ended the Hawks offensive drought with a three at 2:27 and Monmouth was off and running.  Two-straight SHU turnovers led to easy lay-ups by Nesmith and Nicholas to cut the lead to 54-53 with 1:30 left.  Montes had a chance to give the Pioneers a three-point lead but missed two free throws and Waite converted on a leaner at the other end for a 55-54 lead, forcing a SHU timeout with 52 seconds left.  Sacred Heart continued to struggle as Waite pulled down a Montes miss and hit a streaking Austin Tillotson all alone for an easy lay-in and a 57-54 lead.  Two free throws extended the run to 13-0 for a 59-54 lead with 18 seconds left.

Evans got loose for an uncontested lay-up but Nesmith hit both ends of a one-and-one to seal away the comeback win for the Hawks in the only meeting between the two schools this season.  Both teams came in to the game in a four-way tie at 4-6 in the NEC standings.

SHU remains on the road for Saturday's NEC contest at Fairleigh Dickinson.  Tip-off is slated for 2:00 pm