Justin Aluya pumped in 26 points and pulled down 17 rebounds as Monmouth took an 84-79 win over Grinnell on the road as Monmouth pulled into a three-way tie for the Midwest Conference lead.
Monmouth held the Pioneers to 40 points below their average, but had to stage a second half rally to move atop the MWC with Lake Forest and St. Norbert after the Foresters edged Lawrence and St. Norbert fell at home to Ripon. After trailing by a dozen in the first half, Grinnell rallied in the second half, taking a 10-point lead with 9:21 left. The Scots chipped away at the deficit pulling within three at 69-66 on a pair of Paul Engo III free throws. Stephon Bobbitt briefly gave Monmouth the lead on a layup with 2:49 left and then gave the Scots thelead for good at 73-72 on a free throw with 2:32 left. Monmouth held off the Pioneers by making 9-of-10 free throws in the final minute.
Bobbitt finished with a career-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting after coming off the bench and playing 24 minutes. Will Jones and Justin Batterton chipped in 11 points each.
The win set up Saturday’s showdown at Glennie Gym between the Scots and the Foresters with a share of the league lead on the line.
Monmouth took a 34-25 halftime lead after dominating the second quarter, but was clipped in the final minute at Grinnell 62-60.
Tia Robertson poured in 20 points, 14 in the first half as the Scots outscored the Pioneers 19-9 in the second quarter. The Scots’ shooting turned cold in the fourth quarter after nursing a six point lead into the frame. Grinnell used a 10-2 run to take a 49-48 lead four minutes into the final period, but couldn’t shake the Scots who stayed within two possessions for the final six minutes. A Shayne Smith layup with 1:10 left briefly gave Monmouth the lead at 60-58 but Grinnell answered with a 3-pointer and then added a free throw for the final margin.
Smith finished with 13 points and Carley Turnbull added 10.
Monmouth returns to Glennie Gym for a 5 p.m. date with Lake Forest this Saturday.