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Friday, February 16, 2007

Delic "guarantees" Hawks will make NEC Tournament - MU story for Saturday Press

By TONY GRAHAM
STAFF WRITER
WEST LONG BRANCH - The Monmouth University men's basketball team may be on the skids, but it will not slide out of the Northeast Conference Tournament.
At least that's what senior forward Dejan Delic of Monmouth (11-15, 6-8) said Friday before the Hawks embarked for Saturday's critical NEC game at Mount St. Mary's (9-17, 8-7).
""Yes, we're making the NEC Tournament, no doubt about it,'' said Delic. ""I guarantee we're going to make the NEC Tournament.
"" If we don't make the NEC Tournament that will be an absolute embarrassment for our program, especially where we've been (two NCAAs) in my (prior) three years here''
Sitting in the eighth and final NEC playoff slot the Hawks Saturday will play at the Knott Arena in Emmitsburg, Md. where Monmouth is 3-13 over its last 16 games.
After that it's on to LIU Tuesday to face a ninth-place Blackbirds team that currently owns a tiebreaker over over the Hawks by virtue of their Dec. 7 victory in West Long Branch.
Aside from when Robert Morris (1991) and Marist (1988) were banned from the NCAAs for rules violations, no defending NEC Tournament champion has failed to qualify for the following post-season playoffs.
Monmouth Friday lugged a 2-10 road record overall (1-5 in the NEC) onto its bus for the Maryland trip.
""We've got to start playing defense,'' said Delic. ""Our defense the last two games has been pathetic, unacceptable.''
In the games, home court losses to Fairleigh Dickinson and Central Connecticut State, Monmouth has yielded a whopping 77 points per game and a 50 percent field goal percentage (51-for-102).
""If we step up and play defense we can win on the road,'' Delic said.
Monmouth defeated the Mountaineers 62-56 on January 6 as part of a four-game home win streak but it's road woes have led to its playoff crisis.
The Hawks won their last road outing Feb. 8 at Wagner.
""Nobody believed last year in the playoffs we could win it on the road but we did it,'' Delic said. """"I think we're going to get it done and we can make that run again.''
Mount freshman point guard Jeremy Goode is in the NEC Rookie of the Year mix along with Monmouth's Jhamar Youngblood.
Goode, a three-time Rookie of the Week, is averaging 10.4 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Junior guard Chris Vann (12.7 ppg.) tops the Mount scoring list, and 6-4 senior Mychal Kearse averages 10.8 points and a team high 5.5 rebounds.
The Mount has dropped four of its last five games including a 79-51 defeat Thursday at Sacred Heart. That followed a stretch of five wins in seven games.
""Outside of Central (Connecticut) nobody has had any consistency,'' said Delic. ""The league is just crazy.''
e-mail tonygsports@aol.com.

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