(This story appeared in the January 27th issue of The Outlook, the student run newspaper of Monmouth University).
There is now an official rivalry in men’s MAAC basketball between the Monmouth Hawks and the Iona Gaels.
After MU’s 110-102 victory that snapped Iona’s 26 game winning streak at home on Jan. 15, there was an altercation when the teams lined up to shake hands after the game. Iona junior forward Jordan Washington slapped Monmouth junior center Chris Brady across the face. A scuffle followed the act and security had to be involved to separate the two teams.
“It was very unfortunate to end the game like that,” Monmouth head coach King Rice said. “We are just trying to be one of the teams at the top and you have to go through a lot of things to get there. This was a big win for our program.”
MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor released the following statement regarding the incident:
“I have reviewed the issues that arose out of the January 15, 2016 men’s basketball game between Iona College and Monmouth University, and I [have] elected to have both institutions take internal necessary actions to prevent further issues and protect student athlete wellbeing.”
Iona suspended Washington for two games as a result of the incident.
Prior to that game, fifth year Iona head coach Tim Cluess had some interesting words to say about the Monmouth Bench.
“Are they on the team? I didn’t know if they were on the team or wearing uniforms as cheerleaders,” he said. “I’ve never seen them on the court doing anything, so to me, they’re not basketball players.”
Dan Pillari, a sophomore guard who walked on to the program after scoring over 1,000 career points at Shore Regional High School, is known as the Bench Mob’s “ringleader.” But in the Hawks 85-69 win over Siena on Jan. 18, Pillari proved he’s worth more than just bench antics by scoring seven points.
“Dan can play, I’m real proud of him,” junior guard Justin Robinson said after the game. “He comes in here with me and we work out together sometimes. He finally got to do it against somebody else, and it felt good for me because he works just as hard as everybody else on the team.”
Since joining the MAAC prior the 2012-13 campaign, the Hawks have gone 2-4 against the Gaels including their victory this season and their loss in the MAAC tournament from a season ago.
But the Hawks have been in a rebuilding period the past few seasons and are now emerging as a threat in the MAAC, where Iona has been one of the top teams. This is generally how rivalries begin, and there is definitely one emerging between these two programs.
Iona will come to West Long Branch, NJ on Feb. 19 to face the Hawks in a game that will be played at 10 p.m. and broadcasted live on ESPNU.
Since the pivotal game, the Hawks have won two games and loss one game; meanwhile, the Gaels have lost two games and won one.