Early in the second half in Monmouth’s conference opener last Thursday night at Quinnipiac, Je’lon Hornbeak launched a rushed three-pointer early in the shot clock. Usually in the college basketball world, such an act is followed by a the response of a red-faced coach throwing his hands in the air or running down the bench to replace the trigger-happy perpetrator. King Rice was only a couple of feet away from Hornbeak upon the release, but there was no reaction from the sixth-year head coach. Not even an instinctive pained look or shaking of his head. Thirty seconds later, there was a different reaction — a nod of approval — as Hornbeak, this time a couple of feet closer and in rhythm, drilled a three-pointer in front of Rice. Monmouth, the MAAC favorite, went on to roll to its fourth straight victory. The good play continued over the weekend as the Hawks outlasted Canisius on Sunday.
“We don’t really run plays. I have seniors,” Rice said. “We’ve been together for a long time. They know how I think; they know I want them to get it up quick. What do you do when you face a 1-3-1 and you’ve only had a chance to practice against it once? You just have to play basketball. Attack the gaps. If you just play, we have good players, they’ll find the holes.” By all rights, Monmouth should be one of the mid-majors anticipated to be “that” team in March, a veteran group that has tasted enough success to know that it is good enough despite not yet reaching the conference mountain top. But it’s a case of the been-there, done-that for 6-2 Monmouth. How come? Well, maybe there’s a bit of media fatigue on both sides. The Hawks raced to the frontal lobes of the national college basketball consciousness early last season — partially thanks to wins over UCLA, USC, Notre Dame, and Georgetown (yes, four of them) — but also with an entertaining style that included some wonderful improv theater from its bench after every big play. Read the rest of this entry »