Five things about Kentucky basketball’s Saturday opponent at Madison Square Garden, the Monmouth Hawks:
1. Monmouth is just 3-6 so far this season
Two of the Hawks’ defeats came in overtime. They lost 101-96 in overtime to Penn and 84-81 in overtime to Connecticut. They trailed Penn by 14 at the half before rallying to force overtime. They shot 58 percent in the first half to lead Connecticut 42-36 at the half before the Huskies rallied to force overtime.
Three of their other defeats came against good teams. The Hawks lost 75-65 at Seton Hall, who won at Louisville last Sunday. Seton Hall forced Monmouth into 21 turnovers.
They also lost 73-53 at Virginia, who suffered its first loss this week at West Virginia. Virginia held Monmouth to just 33.3 percent shooting, including just 6-of-21 from three-point range.
Monmouth also lost 62-51 at UNC-Asheville, the pre-season favorite to win the Big South.
Wednesday, Monmouth blew a 14-point lead and lost 85-84 to Hofstra. The Hawks led 55-41 five minutes into the second half, but ended up losing despite shooting 58.6 percent from the floor.
Ken Pomeroy ranks Monmouth No. 151 in adjusted efficiency. The Hawks rank No. 192 in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 110 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Kentucky is currently 12th in Pomeory’s overall rankings. The Cats are 25th in adjusted offense and ninth in adjusted defense.
2. Monmouth’s head coach is a former North Carolina point guard
That would be King David Rice. Better known as King Rice, who was Dean Smith’s point guard at North Carolina from 1987-88 through the 1990-91 season.
Rice is 109-68 in his six-plus years as the Monmouth head coach. He was an assistant on Kevin Stallings’ staff at Vanderbilt before being named head coach of the New Jersey school.
Monmouth has gone 28-8 and 27-7 the last two years, settling for the NIT both season. Last year, Monmouth lost to Siena 89-85 in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals. In 2016, Monmouth lost to Iona 79-76 in the conference tournament final.
3. Monmouth has been known to upset majors
Rice’s 2015-16 team opened the season with an 84-81 overtime win over UCLA in Los Angeles. (Kentucky lost to UCLA in Westwood that same season). It went on to beat Notre Dame 70-68 and Southern Cal 83-73.
That team was also known for the so-called Monmouth Bench Mob.
The 2016-17 Hawks won at Memphis 82-79. It also took eventual Final Four team South Carolina to overtime before losing 70-69 in Columbia.
In fact, the Hawks won 17 straight games last season before that crushing loss to Siena in the conference tournament. It lost to Ole Miss 91-83 in the NIT.
4. Monmouth’s best player is coming off knee surgery
Micah Seaborn, a 6-foot-5 redshirt junior from Fort Worth, Texas, leads the Hawks in scoring at 16.7 points per game. He’s the only Hawk averaging in double figures.
But Seaborn is coming off March surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee. He’s missed two games this season because of swelling issues and has started just five of Monmouth’s nine games. Seaborn is averaging 27.7 minutes per game.
Seaborn scored 27 points in the loss to UConn, including 20 in the first half. He scored 23 points in the loss to Hofstra, taking him over 1,000 points for his college career. He made nine of 13 shots, including three-of-five three pointers.
Austin Tilghman, a 6-1 senior from Wilmington, DE, is second on the team in scoring at 9.7 points per game. Tilghman posted a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Penn. He scored 14 points in the loss to Hofstra.
Mustapha Traore, a 6-8 sophomore from Philadephia, leads the team in rebounding at 5.3 per game.
By the way, Rice used seven different starting lineups in Monmouth’s first eight games.
5. Monmouth is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in college basketball
The Hawks are shooting just 64.2 percent from the foul line, which as of Friday ranked 316th out of the 351 schools that play Division I basketball.
Monmouth made just eight of 17 free throws in Wednesday’s loss to Hofstra. It was just 15-of-26 from the foul line int he overtime loss to Connecticut and 24-of-51 in the overtime loss to Penn.
Ray Salnave, a 6-3 redshirt freshman from Elmont, NY, made just four of 12 free throws against Penn and tweeted after the game that he had let his team down. Salnave, who scored a career-high 18 points in a win over previously-unbeaten Albany, is shooting 65.1 percent from the line for the season.
Seeaborn has made 24 of 29 free throws for 82.8 percent, but there’s a steep drop after that. Freshman Deion Hammond, a 6-4 freshman from Mitchellville, MD, has made just 10 of 19 free throw sfor 52.6 percent. Diago Quinn, a 6-9 junior from New York, is 13-of-23 for 56.5 percent. Traore is nine-of-19 from the line for 47.4 percent.