The Monmouth Hawks entered tonight's contest against the USC Trojans at the Galen Center looking to go 2-0 against the PAC-12 on their trip to Los Angeles. The Hawks appeared to be playing with house money after taking down the UCLA Bruins 84-81 on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion. That confidence was quickly squashed, however, when the Trojans jumped out to an early 21-10 lead with 11:26 remaining thanks to sharp shooting from Jordan McLaughlin, Nikola Jovanovic and Elijah Stewart who paced the Trojans to over 50% shooting from the floor and 35% from behind the arc. The lead would balloon to 34-19 with 6:54 left in the first half before the Hawks finally got going. Thanks to a very strong effort from Monmouth veterans Justin Robinson and Deon Jones, who combined for 28 total first half points, the Hawks were able to claw back into this one and find themselves down just one, 47-46 at the half.
The second half was a dogfight both figuratively and literally. There were over a dozen lead changes and 53 fouls between the two teams on the evening. Monmouth was able to take advantage at the line going 20 for 24 while USC Struggled going only 22 for 32 at the stripe. After trading blows for a good part of the half, Monmouth found themselves up 63-60 with just over 10 mins to play in the second half. This would prove to be their last lead of the game. They would not, however, let USC pull away as the Hawks hung close until the very end. Monmouth would find themselves just down 2 points after a Chris Brady bucket that cut the Trojans' lead to 84-82 with under 4 minutes remaining. In the end, the persistence of McLaughlin, Jovanovic, and Stewart, who all dropped 20+ points for the Trojans, would prove to be too much for the Hawks and the Trojans pulled away in the final minutes of the game.
Robinson had a game, scoring a game high 28 points on 9 for 17 shooting and a perfect 6 for 6 at the charity stripe. Jones also did his share dropping 20 points and picking up 8 boards in the loss. Freshman Micah Seaborn also shined scoring 14 points for the second time in his first two collegiate games. On the other side of the ball, Julian Jacobs came one point shy of joining the 3 Trojans in the 20 point club scoring 19 points and pulling down 8 boards. Junior guard Katin Reinhardt also played a big role for for the Trojans gathering 4 rebounds and contributing 14 points, all of which seemed to come when USC needed them most.
This trip has been a coming out party for the Monmouth Hawks who put their name on the map and should be coming home full of confidence. After a poor showing by MAAC front runner Iona on Saturday against fellow mid-major Valparaiso, the Hawks have to feel like the team to beat in the MAAC so far in this young season.
The Hawks will have some time to regroup after the west coast trip as they are not back in action until Saturday when they will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Drexel Dragons at 2:00pm. USC also will play their next game on Saturday where they will face the New Mexico Lobos at home.