Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
A relentless pressure defense forced Lafayette into turnover after turnover and a late push fell short in a 65-60 loss at Monmouth.
The Leopards coughed the ball up 27 times to a Hawks squad that came into the contest second-best in the country at forcing turnovers, and it cost them dearly. A plus-15 turnover margin helped Monmouth take an extra nine shots despite being out-rebounded 36-26.
Tony Johnson had an impressive all-around game with 14 points for his sixth double-figure game of the season, adding nine rebounds, seven assists and five steals but also had a team-high eight turnovers. Seth Hinrichs led the Leopards with 15 points; no one else had more than Alan Flannigan’s nine.
Overall, Lafayette shot 23-of-49 (46.9 percent) from the floor and 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) from the 3-point line while Monmouth hit 25-of-58 (43.1 percent) on the game, 7-of-21 (33.3 percent) from beyond the arc.
Lafayette (1-6) managed to survive a 15-turnover first half with a 26-24 lead thanks to eight giveaways by Monmouth (4-3), but just four turnovers in the second half for the home squad were a big reason the Hawks came out of the half on a 14-4 spurt to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Four more turnovers led to an 8-0 run that ended with 10:13 remaining in the game and Monmouth up 50-36, but Lafayette wasn’t quite done yet. A 14-5 stretch brought the Leopards back within 57-53 with 3:18 to play, but they could get no closer.
Monmouth had a pair of 18-point efforts from guards Andrew Nicholas (7-of-18) and Jesse Steele (6-of-12); every Hawk starter also had two-or-more steals and Dion Nesmith had a team-high six.
The Leopards, losers of five straight, return to action at home at 7 p.m. Wednesday night when they host Delaware (2-4), who’ve lost three straight of their own.