Monmouth rallies from 20 down to win Northeast
Updated: Tuesday March 06, 2001 7:44 AM
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- There was never a sense in the Monmouth locker room or on its sideline that an NCAA tournament berth was slipping away, even when the Hawks trailed by 15 points at halftime and by 20 in the second half.
The Hawks knew better. St. Francis of New York taught them that last year in the opening round of the NEC tournament.
Gerry Crosby scored 11 points to lead a game-ending 31-8 run that rallied Monmouth to a 67-64 victory against St. Francis in the Northeast Conference championship Monday night.
"When they beat us last year, it hurt," Monmouth point guard Rahsaan Johnson. "Coach said at halftime they put us out last year, we're not going to let them put us out again. We used that as motivation."
The second-seeded Hawks (21-9) rallied from a 20-point deficit with 13:59 remaining to earn their second NCAA tournament berth and deny top-seeded St. Francis (18-11) its first berth.
"The engine shut off and it was hard to put back on," St. Francis head coach Ron Ganulin said. "We just didn't hit shots. I think they got tight when the shots weren't falling and when Monmouth made the run we got a little soft on defense. We got tentative at both ends."
The Terriers had two chances to tie it in the closing seconds, but Steven Howard had two 3-pointers bang off the rim in the 10.1 seconds.
Crosby, who finished with 13 points, had given the Terriers an opportunity by missing the first of two free throws.
St. Francis made just one of 15 shots and turned the ball over nine times in the final 13:59.
"When they went up 20, it hurt," Crosby said. "We just kept telling ourselves we have to keep digging in on 'D.' We know we can score. On defense, we had to stick together because we kept telling ourselves we've come too far to give up now. Everybody on this team showed a lot of heart."
Steve Bridgemohan led the Hawks with 16 points and eight rebounds. Johnson, the conference player of the year, had 14 points and eight rebounds on what was a sub-par night for him.
The junior point guard did give Monmouth the lead for good at 64-63, hitting two free throws with 40.7 seconds to play.
"Those were the biggest shots of my life," said Johnson, who added eight rebounds and four assists.
Howard missed a shot in the lane and Richy Dominguez, who had 17 points for St. Francis, missed a 3-pointer.
There was a tie up on the rebound and Monmouth got the ball.
Crosby made two free throws with 15.3 seconds left to make it 66-63, and Greg Nunn made the first of a 1-and-1 for St. Francis.
Russ Anderson got the rebound and called time out. Crosby was eventually fouled, making 1-of-2 to set up the last shots.
St. Francis, which had rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit in the first round last year against Monmouth, seemed to be in total control when it closed the first half with a 32-12 spurt, and then opened the second half with 15-10 spurt for a 56-36 lead.
Dominguez had 11 points and Jason Morgan 10 in the first-half burst, while Howard made three 3-pointers at the start of the second half.
Down 20 and seemingly out of the game, Monmouth staged a magnificent rally, scoring 17 consecutive points to get within 56-53 on a follow by Bridgemohan with 6:05 to go.
Bridgemohan was fouled on the play, but he missed the foul shot, one of five he missed during the run.
Howard then converted a three-point play to push the lead to 59-53 with 5:58 to play, but the Hawks went on a 9-2 run and took the lead on a 3-pointer by Crosby with 2:09 to play.