The Monmouth College men’s basketball team’s offense lit up the second half in a 95-77 win at Illinois College Monday night to pull into a three-way tie for the Midwest Conference lead heading into the holiday break.
The Scots trailed by seven at the half, but hit nearly 70 percent (23 of 33) of their second half shots including a 7 of 13 performance from 3-point range to turn the tide in a game that saw 18 lead changes. Freshman D.J. Swift – who turned in a game and career high 22 points and drained six of his nine 3-point shots – knotted the game at 47-all on a 3-ball just two minutes into the second half as Monmouth then gained the lead for good on Lamont Mitchell’s bucket in the lane with 15:37 left.
Monmouth surged ahead over the next 10 minutes, sinking 15 or their 17 shots, including two runs of seven straight baskets.
Justin Aluya joined Swift in double figures with 19 points, Mitchell added 15 while Will jones and Paul Engo III added 10 each. Engo narrowly missed a double-double, pulling down nine rebounds.
The win moved the Scots to 4-0 in the MWC, to sit atop the standings with idel Lake Forest and St. Norbert. Monmouth and Lake Forest will meet in Lake Forest on Jan. 3 in the first league game after the break for both schools.
Monmouth led for all but two minutes, but had to withstand an Illinois College fourth quarter rally to post a 79-67 win on the Lady Blues home court.
Leading 76-67 with 42 seconds remaining, Yvonne Ornelas sank a pair of free throws to effectively ice the game, moving the Scots just one position out of the Midwest Conference top four.
The Scots took the early lead on Carley Turnbull’s layup with 7:46 left in the first quarter as Monmouth built an eight point advantage on Becca Gallis’ 3-pointer on her way to a team-high 20 point night. The Lady Blues rallied back in the opening frame to knot the game at 14-14 with 2:10 left in the period before the Scots took the lead for good on another Turnbull bucket.
Monmouth surged to a 14-point lead on Jeni Crain’s 3-ball with 3:31 to play in the third quarter, but IC’s relentless attack trimmed the margin to two at 67-65 with 4:20 left in the game. The Scots then hit eight free throws in the final four minutes to hold on for the win.
The Scots are off until Dec. 30 and 31 when they host Coe and Millikin in a pair of 2 p.m. games at Glennie Gym.