Monmouth basketball loses to Rider, 88-62; frustration boils over as Hawks fall to 0-8

LAWRENCEVILLE – The very best Monmouth teams over the years have had trouble beating Rider in the Broncs’ Zoo, including last year’s 21-win team, which dropped a 74-65 decision there.

So you got the feeling it was going to be a tough assignment for the winless team that stepped into the chaotic atmosphere in Alumni Gym Wednesday.

And it was.

Rider used its physicality and experience to hand Monmouth its eighth straight loss to start the season, pounding out an 88-62 victory behind 17 points apiece from Mervin James and Dwight Murray, Jr.

While it was Monmouth’s sixth loss by 18 points or more, there was something about the way this one went down that did not sit well with Hawks' coach King Rice, whose frustration boiled over outside his team’s locker room after the game.

Monmouth coach King Rice talks to his players in a game against Rider on Dec. 1, 2022 in Lawrenceville, N.J.
Monmouth coach King Rice talks to his players in a game against Rider on Dec. 1, 2022 in Lawrenceville, N.J.

“The only reason I would ever come to this building is because (Rider coach) Kevin (Baggett) asked me man-to-man if I would I do this for him.,” Rice said. “I will never play in this building again.

“Everybody act funny, talk crazy. We’ve got some young boys, they’ve got a grown-man team. Everybody wants to flex on my little boys. Flex on us because we’re going to get back. We’re going to whoop everybody – you’re flexing on my freshman and sophomores. Not a good look.”

As Monmouth was going into the locker room at halftime, Rice was furious about something that was said, with Rider officials ejecting a fan who was sitting courtside.

“I’m tired of people talking about my family. That’s too far,” Rice aid. “You can say I (stink), you can say I’m terrible, talk about my team. But leave my wife, my kids out of your mouth. This is so foul. It happens all the time over here.”

Rice also took issue with a fan's behavior following a game at Virgina earlier this season.

Baggett was asked about Rice’s comments in his post-game press conference, saying, “I think it's a little bit of the emotion. I'm going to talk to him after the game. He's had some issues with some of our fans in the past. I don't know if that was the case.”

As for the game, Rider built a 10-point halftime lead, which swelled to 60-40 lead on a three-pointer by Allen Bertrand with 11:14 to play. Another Bertrand triple gave Rider a 73-53 lead with six minutes to play, before the Broncs extended their advantage in the final minutes.

Leading the way for Monmouth was point guard Myles Ruth, who finished with 16 points, and forward Myles Foster, who added 12 points and nine rebounds.

Monmouth has now lost nine straight dating back to last year’s MAAC Tournament final, while Rider improved to 2-4 with its first Division I win of the season.

The first half was a microcosm of Monmouth’s season, with flashes of good play and periods where they struggle to function at both ends of the court.

With Jack Collins and Ruth hitting early three-points, the Hawks jumped out to an 8-0 lead. But Rider came right back with a 14-point run, eventually building a 30-18 lead on a triple by Tariq Ingraham. Monmouth then scored seven straight to make it a one score game, before Rider closed with a seven-point run to take a 37-27 halftime lead.

Here are five takeaways from Monmouth's latest loss:

1. When will Monmouth win a game?

It’s a tough question to answer right now. If they can’t take down a struggling Manhattan team on the road Sunday, the schedule gets a whole lot tougher, beginning with road games at Princeton and Syracuse, before closing the non-conference schedule with home games against Charlotte and Yale.

Monmouth lost 12 straight to open the 2018-19 season, which seems within reach. The Hawks lost 19 in a row to open the 1998-99 season.

2. Foul line woes continue

The free throw struggles are maddening at this point. After missing 12 free throws in a four-point Loss at Lehigh, Monmouth missed 13 in this game. They came into the game ranked 342 out of 352 Division I teams in free throw percentage.

“It’s way in our heads. It’s all the way in our heads,” said Rice, who said practicing is the only way to solve the problem.

“And yes, we’ve been practicing.”

3. Can Hawks keep pushing forward?

Losing can drain a team’s confidence, but Rice feels his team will be able to push forward through some very tough times.

“They’re college athletes,” Rice said. “If you hang your head you’re in the wrong sport. There’s no hanging your head. You come out, you do your best – these game shouldn’t be like this. That’s something we’ve got to work on.

“f you’re not motivated you shouldn't be playing college basketball. That’s not for me to do for them - if I have to motivate them we have bigger problems than that.”

4. More defensive breakdowns

Monmouth was simply unable to contain Rider’s scorers, with Murray, the early favorite to be the MAAC Player of the Year who came in averaging 19.2 points, hitting 6-of-9 from the floor, while James was a physical presence inside all night, making good on 7-of-11 from the floor.

As a team, Rider shot 57.7 percent from the field, and 44.4 percent from long range.

5. Youngsters struggled

Ruth and Foster, both juniors, scored nearly half of Monmouth’s points, as the younger players faltered in the pressurized environment in the bandbox guy. Monmouth’s three freshman combined for just 11 points, led by Collins with six points, although five of them came in the opening two minutes. The sophomores didn’t fare much better, with guards Tahron Allen and Jayden Doyle combining for just eight points.

Monmouth point guard Myles Ruth drives against Rider's Dimencio Vaughn during Monmouth's win in last season's MAAC Tournament semifinals at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Monmouth point guard Myles Ruth drives against Rider's Dimencio Vaughn during Monmouth's win in last season's MAAC Tournament semifinals at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Pregame

Monmouth basketball: 5 keys vs. Rider, as Hawks look to snap season-opening slide

LAWRENCEVILLE – Over the past eight seasons, Monmouth and Rider had some intense Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference battles in the Broncs’ Zoo. It was quite a ride, from Monmouth's epic comeback in 2016, capped by Justin Robinson’s long three in the final seconds, to last year’s regular season-ending Rider win, before Monmouth returned the favor in the MAAC Tournament.

And while Monmouth has now shifted to the Colonial Athletic Association, the Hawks return Wednesday (8 p.m./ESPN+) for a Central Jersey showdown in the bandbox gym just 50 miles from campus, looking to snap an eight-game losing streak dating back to last year’s MAAC Tournament.

Monmouth (0-7) is one of seven winless teams nationally. The Hawks lost 12 straight to start the 2018-19 season, and opened the 1998-99 season by dropping 19 in-a-row.

Rider (1-4) is looking for its first victory against Division 1 competition this season, having beaten Division 3 TCNJ for its lone win. The Broncs have two losses against high-major programs, falling 66-65 at Providence in the opener, and 76-46 at Rutgers last time out.

Dwight Murray Jr. is playing like a MAAC Player of the Year contender right now, averaging 19.8 points and 5.0 rebounds. Murray, who hit the game-winner that knocked Iona out in the MAAC quarterfinals last season, is 10-of-23 from three-point range.

Guard Allen Powell (9.6 points) and forward Mervin James (9.4 ppg., 4.6 rpg.), who scored 23 points in the regular-season finale against Monmouth, are familiar faces. Wake Forest transfer Tariq Ingraham (6-9) is averaging 7.2 points and 5.6 rebounds.

Rider is deep, with 12 players averaging seven minutes or more.

1. Foul line focus

Free throws are a major issue for Monmouth. Hitting one of two isn’t good enough when every point matters. Make half of the 12 misses in Sunday’s 80-76 loss at Lehigh, which would have made the Hawks 17-of-23 for the game, and there’s a good chance they win.

Myles Ruth is 13-of-14 from the line, and Klem Vuga is 11-of-14. Still, Monmouth is shooting just 59.6 percent as a team.

2. Go with the flow

The movement within the offense looked quicker and a lot more fluid against Lehigh, with less standing around. When everyone touches the ball and makes that extra pass, the Hawks’ offense functions better as a group. Against Lehigh, eight players scored, four were in double figures, and everyone got looks.

3. Defend, defend, defend

Good defensive teams hold the opposition below their scoring average, and great ones hold them well below it. Lehigh came in averaging right about 80 points versus Division I teams, and that’s what they got against Monmouth. Rider is averaging 66 points-per-game. If Monmouth can keep them below that they can win.

4. Play with passion

Monmouth came as close to the kind of intensity it must maintain over 40 minutes against Lehigh as it has all season. As inexperienced as the Hawks are, they have to be flying round the court from the opening tip until the final buzzer to have a chance.

5. Point of emphasis

As Monmouth’s starting point guard, Ruth comes off his most consistent game of the season, playing 32 minutes against Lehigh, scoring seven points, dishing three assists and grabbing two rebounds, although five turnovers is too many.

Let that performance serve as a foundation to build on, while playing a good game defensively against Murray.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Monmouth NJ basketball loses to Rider, 88-62, as Hawks fall to 0-8