Teaneck, NJ - It happened on several occasions. The first half would see sound execution, good offense, and defense, all the desired qualities needed to build a lead.
Then the third quarter.
The lead and all the good of the first 20 minutes seemed to dissipate. Not once, but several times. Even as recent as two nights earlier when a double-digit lead over UMASS-Lowell was completely altered in a disheartening loss.
On Sunday evening, FDU built the first half lead against Monmouth. The hosts enjoyed a 13 point lead at intermission. Then the third quarter began with two quick Monmouth baskets. As the old sage, Yogi Berra would say it looked like ‘deja vu all over again.' On this night, FDU quickly responded ending the Monmouth spurt. They were ultimately outscored by seven in the quarter, yet showed the resolve to post an 81-75 victory.
During the half, FDU coach Pete Cinella sent a message, not based on panic but logic. "At halftime we talked about how teams would make runs," Cinella said. "We expected Monmouth to make a run and told our kids to expect it and be ready for it."
The Monmouth run came largely in three-point shooting. The Hawks attempted 35, hitting 12 for a 34% showing. In the fourth quarter, they buried eight treys.
"They are incredible with their three-point shooting," Cinella said. "I think they did get a lot of looks out of transition."
The Hawks had the deficit whittled to two possessions, but never drew even which was significant from a momentum perspective.
While Monmouth bombed from downtown, FDU's Erika Livermore had a monster game. The senior center, one of the Northeast Conference's most talented players, had 28 points and 15 boards, both game highs. She also added three blocked shots. FDU's prolific scoring Kelsey Cruz added 23 from her guard spot.
Of added significance was the 14 points and 5 rebounds from Jackie Jackson. "She (Jackson) really gave us good possessions," Cinella said. "Her defense was excellent as well." Getting consistent efforts from the likes of Jackson could take defensive pressure off Livermore and Cruz, thus making FDU a dangerous team on offense.
Monmouth was led by Dana Carbone, who came off to bench and scored 19 points. Carbone shot 4 of 8 from three and helped rally the Hawks in that final quarter. Sarah Olson, who also buried four treys, added 18.
"We were upset about losing Friday," Livermore said. "We decided to put that behind us, but we were focused on finishing this one. It was a team effort and a great team victory."
Monmouth full court pressure forced FDU into 25 turnovers. Any advantage in that area was offset by the Knights' 38-20 differential in points in the paint. Their inside prowess also allowed them to get to the line for 29 shots (making 23 at a 79% clip).
FDU improved to 3-7 while Monmouth is 2-7. "I think we are improving," Cinella said. "I know we are all looking forward to (Northeast) Conference play."