By R.L. Bynum
Walker Miller tried to will Monmouth to victory but his career-high 26 points weren’t enough to get it done.
Monmouth, under Coach King Rice, rallied from an 18-point deficit, but Hofstra held on for a 77–71 victory on Wednesday night in West Long Branch, N.J. That snapped a three-game win streak for the Hawks (10–3) and a nine-game home win streak.
Miller showed off an intense scowl after he made a back-door cut, took a pass and dunked for a 3-point play (above) with 2:53 left to cut Hofstra’s lead to four. His 3-pointer with 51 seconds left (below) sliced Monmouth’s deficit to 75–71.
After the Hawks’ Omar Silverio and George Papas each missed 3-point attempts in the final 25 seconds, Darlinstone Dubar put the game away for the Pride (8–5) on two free throws with eight seconds left.
“I want to give Hofstra all the credit in the world,” Rice said. “They came with a great plan, knocked us way back and made us look like we haven’t looked all season. We got going a little bit with our defense but just not enough, we had a shot to tie it towards the end but it just wasn’t our night.”
It was the most efficient game of Miller’s career. He was 9 of 12 from the floor for a career-best 75% and only missed one of four shots from outside the arc for a career-high three 3-pointers. He didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in 69 games as a Tar Heel but has nine this season.
Miller has also improved his free-throw shooting. He shot 66.6% from the line at Carolina but is at 85.5% this season, including 5 of 7 against Hofstra.
Miller continues to show that he can be a big factor for Monmouth if he stays out of foul trouble, with only two fouls Wednesday. Six of his best seven scoring games this season have come when he has fewer than three fouls.
Walker Kessler continues to be a shot-blocking machine for No. 12 Auburn (11–1) but, unlike Miller, he hasn’t yet developed the skills to be considered a stretch four.
He blocked seven shots in the Tigers’ 71–58 home victory Wednesday over Murray State (10–2). That was one short of his career-high of eight blocks when he scored 16 points in Carolina’s 101–59 ACC tournament victory over Notre Dame on March 10.
Kessler came to Chapel Hill touted as a dangerous perimeter shooter but has made only 3 of 21 3-point attempts this season after hitting 1 of 4 shots from outside the arc last season for UNC.
Kessler, who is fifth in the country at 3.67 blocks per game, has more blocks (44) than the entire Carolina team (43) this season and has at least four in the last three games (tweet below is wrong; he had only four against Saint Louis). Armando Bacot leads the Tar Heels with 20. Kessler has blocked 18.3% of opponent 2-point attempts when he’s on the floor.
Kessler scored 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds against Murray State and has scored in double figures a season-high three consecutive games. Kessler’s best stretch last season for the Tar Heels was four, all in home games: 10 on Feb. 17 vs. Northeastern, Feb. 20 vs. Louisville and Feb. 24 vs. Marquette; and 20 on Feb. 27 vs. Florida State.
Garrison Brooks’ 3-point play helped Mississippi State get out to a 7–1 lead Tuesday as the Bulldogs rolled to an 84–63 home victory over Winthrop in Jackson, Miss.
In 26 minutes, Brooks had 15 points, five rebounds, an assist and a block for the Bulldogs (9–3).
“I thought Garrison did a good job scoring for us,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “We had 47 points in the first half, which I think is the most for any half this year for our team. So, it feels good to go into the Christmas break with a ‘W’.”
Brandon Huffman contributed nine points, four rebounds and three blocks while battling foul trouble in Jacksonville State’s 87–67 Tuesday win at Little Rock. It was Huffman’s fourth game with at least three blocks in his two seasons with the Gamecocks.
Huffman’s turnaround jumper began a 29–14 second-half Jacksonville State run to put the game away.
After not getting in New Mexico’s previous two games, Jeremiah Francis played 13 minutes in Tuesday’s 68–54 home win over Norfolk State. He contributed three points on his first 3-pointer of the season, with two rebounds, two assists and a block for the 7–6 Lobos.
It isn’t clear when Seventh Woods’ Morgan State team will next play a game. The program paused all team activities Monday under COVID-19 protocols. The next scheduled game that hasn’t yet been postponed is Wednesday at Kansas State.
How the seven former Tar Heels did
Garrison Brooks, Mississippi State center
84–63 Tuesday win vs. Winthrop — Started; 26 minutes, 15 points, 6–10 FG, 2–3 3FG, 1–1 FT, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, +17
Season statistics — 12 games, 12 starts, 11.7 points, 49.1 FG%, 42.9% 3FG%, 76.2% FT%, 6.6 rebounds; season totals of 7 assists, 8 blocks, 3 steals
Up next — 9 p.m. Wednesday vs. Arkansas, SEC Network; 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5 at Missouri, SEC Network
Jeremiah Francis, New Mexico guard
68–54 Tuesday win vs. Norfolk State — 13 minutes, 3 points, 1–4 FG, 1–2 3FG, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, +16
Season statistics — 5 games, 2.2 points, 38.5% FG, 1–3 3FG; season totals of 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 block
Up next — midnight Tuesday vs. Colorado State, FS1; 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 1, at Nevada
Brandon Huffman, Jacksonville State forward/center
87–67 Tuesday win at Little Rock — Started; 15 minutes, 9 points, 3–4 FG, 3–4 FT, 4 rebounds, 4 fouls, 3 blocks, +1
Season statistics — 12 games, 12 starts, 9.3 points, 60.0 FG%, 62.2 FT%, 5.8 rebounds; season totals of 2 assists, 20 turnovers, 12 blocks and 5 steals
Up next — 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. Carver, ESPN+; 8:30 Thursday, Dec. 30 vs. Middle Georgia, ESPN+
Walker Kessler, Auburn forward/center
71–58 Wednesday win vs. Murray State — Started; 26 minutes, 13 points, 5–7 FG, 1–2 3FG, 2–4 FT, 7 rebounds, 7 blocks, +4
Season statistics — 12 games, 12 starts, 9.5 points, 55.1 FG%, 14.3% 3FG, 54.2 FT%, 7.3 rebounds; season totals of 11 assists, 46 blocks, 14 steals
Up next — 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. LSU, ESPN; 6:30 Tuesday, Jan. 4 at South Carolina, SEC Network
Walker Miller, Monmouth forward
77–71 Wednesday loss vs. Hofstra — Started; 36 minutes, 26 points, 9–12 FG, 3–4 3FG, 5–7 FT, 6 rebounds, 2 fouls, 3 turnovers, -11
Season statistics — 13 games, 13 starts, 14.9 points, 48.9 FG%, 34.6 3FG%, 85.5 FT%, 6.8 rebounds; season totals of 11 assists, 13 blocks, 8 steals
Up next — 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 31 vs. Marist; 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7 vs. Siena
Andrew Platek, Siena guard
Out for the season after having surgery to repair a full tear in the Achilles tendon in his left leg
Season statistics — 5 games, 3 starts, 9.0 points, 40.9 FG%, 31.3 3FG%, 4–4 FT, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Seventh Woods, Morgan State guard
On Monday, the program paused all team activities under COVID-19 protocols
Season statistics — 5 games, 2 starts, 7.6 points, 50.0 FG%, 28.6 3FG%, 1.6 rebounds; season total of 7 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Next games that haven’t been postponed — 8 p.m. Wednesday at Kansas State, ESPN+; 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8 at N.C. Central
Photos courtesy of Monmouth Athletics