EMMITSBURG - There's something about Knott Arena this season that continues to elicit astonishment from Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan.
"We never cease to amaze ourselves at how bad we can shoot at home," Phelan said.
Last night's 58-42 loss to Northeast Conference rival Monmouth was just the latest example. Facing a matchup zone defense, the Mountaineers (7-10 overall, 2-6 NEC) continually settled for perimeter jumpers, shooting 29 percent from the field and set a season-low for points in losing for the seventh time in nine games.
"We did the very same thing against New Hampshire, we did the same thing against Navy, we do the same thing against everybody we play here," said Phelan. "I don't know why, but we shoot so poorly, and 29 percent won't get it done."
Despite shooting just 30 percent themselves, the Hawks (9-8, 7-1) won their fourth straight with a defense content to pack it in and make the Mountaineers shoot over them. And shoot the Mountaineers did, taking 11 of their first 15 shots from beyond the arc and finishing 4-for-19 in three-point attempts.
Phelan said the team became too reliant on the three-pointer "instead of going inside like we're supposed to."
After jumping out to a 10-3 lead on consecutive blocks by 6-foot-8 forward Angel Rivera and three-pointers by Jamion Christian and Landy Thompson, the Mount lost momentum.
Paced by Dwayne Byfield (19 points) and Jason Krayl (13 points) and Blake Hamilton (13 points), Monmouth took its first lead with 4:16 left in the half. After outscoring the Mountaineers 17-4 in the final eight minutes, the Hawks went into halftime leading 31-22 and never trailed again.
"I thought we were tough," Monmouth coach Dave Calloway said. "They came at us, and we responded defensively. It was a physical game, but our guys hung in there, rebounded and contested almost every shot. When you do that, you're going to stop them from scoring."
Things got so bad for the Mountaineers that Phelan inserted little-used Jason Carbone and Michael Bajornas during key stretches of the second half, looking for an offensive spark.
"We're like the gang that couldn't shoot straight," Phelan said.