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MAAC Quarterfinals Day 1 recap: Top two seeds Monmouth and Saint Peter’s advance

Monmouth rolls, but at a potentially steep cost

NCAA Basketball: Monmouth-NJ at Georgetown Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The first half of the MAAC Tournament quarterfinals played out Friday night in Albany with each of the top two seeds advancing. They’ll now get a day off as the rest of the semifinal field is determined. Here’s how it all unfolded.

1 Monmouth 84, 9 Niagara 59

Top-seeded Monmouth opened its MAAC tournament by coasting to a 25-point victory over 9 seed Niagara, extending its winning streak to 17 games — the second-longest in the nation.

However, the win for the Hawks came at a potentially high cost. Sophomore wing Micah Seaborn, the Hawks’ second-leading scorer, had to be helped off the court after re-injuring his left knee. It was a tough scene to watch unfold as Seaborn was visibly upset while being helped off the floor by teammates Je’lon Hornbeak and Josh James. Monmouth has a day off before its semifinal game on Sunday afternoon, but Seaborn’s availability for that game appears to be in serious jeopardy.

The good news for King Rice is that he has cultivated phenomenal depth, and you only need to look at Friday’s game for proof. Redshirt freshman and former Bench Mob member Louie Pillari came out of practically nowhere to score 16 points in 19 minutes. Pillari had scored 16 total points in his last six games combined prior to Friday’s game. It was a fairly quiet night for point guard and leading scorer Justin Robinson, scoring 14 points in 25 minutes, but that was more than enough to ease by the Purple Eagles, who were paced by Dominic Robb’s 12 points and 11 rebounds. Monmouth gets the winner of 4 seed Siena and 5 seed Fairfield in the semifinals.

2 Saint Peter’s 61, 7 Canisius 58

The second quarterfinal game in Albany provided some real intrigue, as 7 seed Canisius battled back in the second half to nearly stun 2 seed Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks took a five-point lead into the half thanks to 10 points from center Quadir Welton, and John Dunne’s squad quickly extended the lead to 17 by virtue of a 12-0 run to start the second half.

That would represent the largest lead for Saint Peter’s, and the Griffs slowly starting chipping away from there. Canisius looked just about cooked at the under 12 timeout when senior forward Phil Valenti picked up his fourth foul, but an 8-2 Golden Griff run cut the lead to six with six minutes to play.

A Cavon Baker drive with under two minutes left pumped the lead back up to eight, but Isaiah Reese rattled off five straight points, then a Jermaine Crumpton three with 42 seconds left cut the lead all the way down to one. Trevis Wyche came down and hit a layup to give the Peacocks a three-point advantage with 13 seconds left, and Crumpton and Reese both missed threes to tie the game on Canisius’s final possession.

Welton led the way for Saint Peter’s with 15 points and nine boards, while Reese had 19 and 11 for Canisius. The Peacocks survived and advanced, but this was certainly a stark reminder that while the Peacock defense will keep them in games, they’re going to need to find ways to score more efficiently as this tournament progress. The Peacocks will face the winner of 3 seed Iona and 6 seed Rider next.

Up Next: The quarterfinals continue Saturday with 3 seed Iona vs. 6 seed Rider, and 4 seed Siena vs. 5 seed Fairfield.