Duquesne throws down against Monmouth in battle of the benches

Nothing personal, Monmouth, but Nick Foschia would like to make two things very, very, very, very, very clear:

  1. His Bench Mob kicks the living jiggy out of your Bench Mob.

  2. His Bench Mob did it first.

“After Monmouth got on national television, they had their celebrations,” said Foschia, a senior forward on the Duquesne men’s basketball squad. “I saw them take three of our celebrations without any credit to us whatsoever. So there’s some animosity between us and the Monmouth bench.”

OK, well — maybe it IS a little personal.

“Some of their celebrations are pretty unique, I’ll give them that,” offered Dukes sophomore guard David Haus, another of the entertainers at the end of the DU bench. “But I really think (they) got it from us, setting the tone, kind of starting this whole thing up.”

The origins of the Pittsburgh Bench Mob date back two years ago Foschia said, as a way for walk-ons and assorted scout-team members to amuse themselves (and the crowd) while still keeping their heads in the action. The first orchestrated celebration caught on video came almost exactly a year ago, against St. Bonaventure — and, funny enough, the Dukes host those same Bonnies in an Atlantic 10 tussle Saturday on ASN.

“It gets us involved in the game,” Haus explaned. “We’re not bored on the sidelines; we’re into the game. But it’s (that) we want to do something else to get everyone involved.”

“It’s fun for us, it’s fun for people watching,” Foschia added. “(And) we’re still cheering for our team.”

Against St. Bonaventure last January, there was The Field Goal:

?? out for some new celebrations coming out tonight. This is just the start #weherewerise #brooklynwegohard

— Nick Foschia (@NFosch) March 11, 2015

At the A-10 tourney a few months later, they tossed out The Bowling Ball:

Bench celebrations on point ???

— Nick Foschia (@NFosch) March 12, 2015

And that’s just a bite-size look at the Bench Mob’s playbook. In-game routines are discussed, rehearsed and perfected in advance of the game to come; Foschia figures he spends “five to seven hours” a week digging up potential new celebrations from sources around the world, diving down rabbit holes.

Which is some kind of dedication. Some kind of … something.

“I think everyone took it in good fun,” Foschia said. “You always see teams with these (coordinated) celebrations; We kind of want to blow the doors off and kind of send a message to the other bench that we’re kings of the hill.”

Of course, like many show-biz pioneers, Foschia and Haus had to grin and bear it while someone else took a similar act to greater, widespread acclaim. There are T-shirts for sale proclaiming Monmouth’s Mob to be “The Best Bench In Basketball.” The Hawks’ antics have been featured on the “Today” show, the Washington Post, USA Today, among other national outlets; the Twitter handle @MonmouthBench racked up 13,800 followers as of early Thursday morning (Foschia had 413).

It’s also about getting your foot in the door on the basketball side, and the Hawks’ on-court resume is pretty salty, having picked up three wins over teams ranked in the RPI Top 50 over the first month of the campaign — including a season-opening shocker at UCLA, 84-81, back on November 13. Duquesne throttled Penn State, 78-52, a week after that, but injuries have since sucked the wind out the Dukes’ pre-winter sails.

Just not their sense of humor.

“It brings the guys on the floor energy,” Haus said. “If they hit a 3-pointer, (and we’re) all jumping, hooting and hollering, it gives them energy. On both sides of the floor, it gives us an edge.”

There’s a fine line, though. Dukes’ Mob has gotten the stinkeye from more than a few passing officials who don’t enjoy the routines as much as the crowd.

“Yeah, we’ve gotten about two or three ‘excessive celebration’ (warnings),” Haus said. “We were so excited, in the flow, they had to tell us to get back on the sidelines and sit down. They keep telling us to sit down, but that’s no fun, honestly.”

At first, the Mob’s teammates were too into the game — or were supposed to be, anyway — to notice the antics as they headed back on the defensive end.

But video reviews the day after? Different story.

“They’ve come in the locker room the next day and they’d see the video and they just stated laughing at us,” Foschia recalled. “After that, we took it to heart and tried to kick it to the next level.”

Dear Mom and Dad: Send Choreography.

“They love it,” said Haus, a Pittsburgh native who played high-school ball at North Allegheny High.

“My parents think it’s absolutely comical,” said Foschia, a multi-sport student-athlete at Walsh Jesuit High in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “I got texts after the Saint Louis game (last year) from 20-25 of my friends who all told me how comical it was and they asked me what celebration we were going to be doing the next game.”

He wouldn’t tell then. And he won’t spill any beans now. We tried.

“We’re trying to keep it a secret,” Foschia said.

Besides, Monmouth might be taking, you know, notes.

“I think, occasionally watching their games on TV,” Haus said. “I can’t remember honestly which exact game it was. I just see them doing little (routines) in situations (and) I can guarantee that they stole it.”

Talent borrows. Genius steals.

“It would be great if we got some kind of bench celebration rivalry between us,” Foschia said. “I think we need to let (people on) social media judge it. We’d send a celebration and let them send a celebration, and we’ll let everybody vote.”

Heads up, genius: The Dukes have thrown down the gauntlet. The next dance move, Hawks, is in your court.

Above: While Monmouth's bench might be getting the all the press, Duquesne says their bench originated the creative celebration displays. (Courtesy Dave DeNoma/Duquesne)

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