Monmouth NJ basketball: 5 keys vs. Colgate, as freshmen play key roles – Asbury Park Press

Monmouth NJ basketball: 5 keys vs. Colgate, as freshmen play key roles – Asbury Park Press

Monmouth’s had its share of impactful recruiting classes. Whether it was Corey Albany, Quincy Lee and Mustafa Barksdale in 1993, Blake Hamilton and Dwayne Byfield in 2000, or Justin Robinson, Josh James, Zac Tillman and Chris Brady in 2013, they all left a lasting impact on the program by the time they graduated.
Now that we’ve gotten a small sampling of the 2022 recruiting class, albeit four games in what ranks as the 11th toughest schedule in the country, it makes you wonder how good the group can be a few years from now.
The latest test comes Monday night (7 p.m./ESPN+; MonmouthHawks.com) when Monmouth (0-4, 0-0 CAA) travels to Hamilton, New York to face an experienced Colgate (3-2, 0-0 Patriot) team that’s won 23 or more games in each of the last three full seasons, while going 14-2 in the pandemic shortened 2020-21 season.
In Saturday’s loss to Norfolk State in the home opener, it was 6-5 guard Jack Collins hitting for a team-high 14 points, the second straight game in double figures for the Manasquan native.
Andrew Ball, a 6-6 guard from Marlton, had a team-high 13 points against Illinois, and 7-1 center Amaan Sandhu made the first start of his career against Norfolk State, after getting five points and four rebounds against Seton Hall in the opener.
And while 6-9 forward Jaret Valencia will redshirt this season, he’s a 3-star recruit who had high-major offers, with athleticism that could be difference-making at the mid-major level.
Collins is the fourth player in Monmouth coach King Rice’s 12 seasons to start his first game as a true freshman, along with Robinson and Tillman, and current junior point guard Myles Ruth. After a season at the Phelps School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, the former Manasquan High School standout is averaging 8.3 points and 2.3 rebounds.
(Collins) is a big-time kid. He is tougher than everyone,” Rice said. “It’s amazing how recruiting works. Not a lot of people recruited him. He was about to go to a school and ended up going to prep school. We ended up seeing him the last day of the summer, and I had seen him before – I watching him in our building. But seeing him last day of the summer and I’m like ‘this kid might be better than all the kids we were looking at.’ The I heard he was going to prep school and then I said ‘we’ll definitely offer you a scholarship for next year.
“He’s a local kid and they wanted this and when you get kids who want you they usually have a lot of success.”
Only time will tell if the class can ultimately help the Hawks return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. For now, here are five keys for the Hawks against a Colgate team looking to play in March Madness for the fourth time in five seasons, and already has a signature win this season in an 80-63 victory at Syracuse, before losing to Duquesne, 85-80, last time out:
As if three straight games against high-major opponents to open the season wasn’t enough, Monmouth comes face-to-face with one of the best mid-major players in the country for the second straight game. Norfolk State guard Joe Bryant Jr. got 23 points in a 64-59 win Thursday. Now comes Colgate’s fifth-year guard Tucker Richardson, the Patriot League’s Preseason Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
Averaging 19.2 points and 4.2 rebounds, the 6-5 Richardson, with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists for his career, is going to make plays. But keep him around his averages.
The numbers paint a grim picture. Monmouth ranks 343rd out of 352 Division I teams in three-point field goal defense, with teams hitting at a 42.9 percent rate from beyond the arc. And Colgate’s top three scorers, including Richardson, senior guard Oliver Lynch-Daniels (14.5 ppg., 3.0 RPG), and forward Ryan Moffatt (14.2 PPG., 4.6 rpg.) have combined to hit 38 of 79 triples, or 48.1 percent.
Monmouth was a little better against Norfolk State at getting out on shooters on the perimeter. Better to give up two points inside than allow wide open shots from the outside.
Colgate’s senior-leaden roster could render Monmouth’s trapping zone defense useless. But point guard Braeden Smith is a freshman, and Monmouth was at its best against Norfolk State when it was forcing turnovers and getting out in the open court.
Monmouth is slowly working towards increasing the pace of games, a balancing act in which inexperienced mistakes are part of the calculation.
Monmouth was very good inside against Norfolk State, holding a 47-35 advantage in rebounding, and a 26-24 edge in scoring in the paint. The frontcourt of Sandhu, Klem Vuga and forward Myles Foster combined to grab 24 rebounds.
What the Hawks need is more offensive production from the group. They combined for 14 points against Norfolk State. If they had 24 points to go with 24 rebounds they win that game.
After turning it over 67 times over the first three games, Monmouth gave it away 16 times against Norfolk State. Not bad, but that number still needs to come down given the challenges the Hawks face offensively.
Colgate is averaging 83 ppg. Reducing their possessions is critical. Norfolk State came in averaging 80.5 points, and the Hawks held them to 64 points.
Check back right here Monday night for complete coverage and analysis.

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