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Northeast Conference Finals Recap

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Finals Recap

Recap by Keith Burdette

No. 1 Monmouth Hawks 67, No. 7 Central Connecticut State Blue Devils 55
Monmouth’s stifling defense was the key was the Hawks beat the Blue Devils 67-55 to earn their third ever trip to the NCAA tournament. Tyler Azzarelli had a career-high 19 points to lead Monmouth and make up for sub par nights from Blake Hamilton and Dwayne Byfield. Ron Robinson had twelve points and eleven rebounds while Rich Pittman led the Blue Devils with sixteen points. The Blue Devils struggled offensively all night and shot only 32 percent from the field.

Monmouth built an early lead in the game as CCSU couldn’t find the basket early. The lead was a big as nine but the Blue Devils fought back to tie it late in the first half as Blake Hamilton sat on the bench in foul trouble. But Monmouth quickly answered by scoring on the next possession and didn’t trail the rest of the game. The lead was six at the break and as high as fifteen in the second half. One possession in the second half, Monmouth held the ball for a minute and a half to accentuate the Blue Devils troubles. With three minutes left, the Blue Devils feared the Hawks would simply run the clock out and started fouling in desperation, slowing the game to a crawl. CCSU cut the lead to seven in the final minute but Monmouth’s suffocating defense prevented the Blue Devils from getting any more good looks.

Blake Hamilton scored ten points and was named tournament MVP. Tyler Azzarelli and Dwayne Byfield from Monmouth also joined him on the all-tournament team. Ron Robinson was the Blue Devils only player on the team while Tamien Trent of Fairleigh Dickinson was the final member.

Monmouth hopes to end the NEC struggles in the NCAA tournament; the league has won only one game in its history and that was a play-in game back in 1983. The Hawks lost in the first round in their two appearances, 68-44 to Marquette as a 13 seed in 1996 and 95-52 to Duke as a 16 seed in 2001.

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