Monmouth returns to NCAA field
West Long Branch, NJ (Sports Network) – Tyler Azzarelli scored a career-high
19 points and made four steals to lead the Monmouth Hawks to a 67-55 victory
over the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils in the Northeast Conference
Tournament title game from Boyland Gym.
With the win, top-seeded Monmouth (21-11) moved to a perfect 13-0 at home this
season and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“We have the best fans in the Northeast Conference,” Monmouth head coach Dave
Calloway said. “And that’s why we are undefeated at home.”
This was the third NEC title for the Hawks, having previously won in 2001 and
Blake Hamilton had 10 points and six boards and Chris Kenny collected eight
points for Monmouth, which goes into the field of 65 with three straight wins.
Rich Pittman had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Ron Robinson added 12 with 11
boards for the Blue Devils (14-14), who had a three-game win streak snapped.
Monmouth jumped out to a big lead early, going up 10-2 on an Azzarelli layup
five minutes in and pushing its lead to nine at 19-10 on another layup by
Azzarelli midway through the half.
But the Hawks then went nearly seven minutes without scoring, allowing the
Blue Devils to climb back into it. With 3:34 to go in the half, Javier
Mojica scored on a layup to knot the game at 19-19.
The Hawks, though, scored the next seven points, including a three-point play
by Azzarelli on a backdoor layup, to move ahead 26-19. Central Connecticut
State could muster only a free throw from DeMario Anderson the rest of the
way, and trailed 26-20 after 20 minutes.
Azzarelli had 12 points to lead all players at the break, while Robinson
scored 10 to lead the way for Central Connecticut State.
Monmouth also scored the first five points of the second half to push its lead
to 11 at 31-20, and midway through the frame, increased its lead to 13 at
44-31 on a Kenny jumper.
Both teams went cold from there, as both the Blue Devils and Hawks scored only
four points each over the next 7 1/2 minutes. Russell Anderson then scored on
a layup with 2:45 to play to put the Hawks up 50-35.
Central Connecticut State put together a late push, getting to within seven at
62-55 on a Justin Chiera three-pointer with 39 seconds left, but it was too
little, too late for the Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils made it to the NCAA Tournament in both 2000 and 2002 with wins
over Robert Morris and Quinnipiac, respectively, in the championship games of
Monmouth recorded the conference’s first unblemished home campaign since Long
Island finished 12-0 in 1996-97.
The was the NEC’s 23rd annual conference tournament.