Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- No one will ever confuse Joe Namath with Monroe center Robert Arnold -- but Arnold is in the guarantee business these days.

"We're not going to lose a game. I guarantee it,'' said Arnold after Monroe's 72-56 blowout over Dougherty Tuesday.

Guarantee?

"Yes,'' Arnold said. "We're going to go 24-0.''

Herald No. 1 Monroe is now 18-0 with six games left in the regular season, and Arnold may know what he's talking about.

After all, Monroe just looks better and better with every game.

Just look at Tuesday's city-rivalry showdown in a standing-room-only Monroe gym, where the Tornadoes had a fast start and a exclamation-point finish. In the first meeting, Monroe needed free throws by Arnold in the final seconds to put away Dougherty, 46-40.

Monroe scored 42 points in the first half Tuesday.

"That was one of our best starts, if not the best start all year,'' said Monroe coach Marquis Davis, whose team came flying out of the gate to rip off a 15-5 lead in the first 3 1/2 minutes. "We've been talking a lot lately about getting off to fast starts.''

Monroe wasn't the only one talking.

"There was a lot of talking all week about how we shouldn't have beaten them in the first game,'' said Monroe's Carlos Brown, who hit a 3-pointer in that 15-5 sprint." Their cheerleaders had been texting all week about how they were going to win the game, and we just wanted to come out and blow them out of the gym.

"We came out and went right after them. We had heard it all week, and we just wanted to come out and beat them by 20. We should have beaten them by 20.''

Arnold was a big part of the fast start, scoring nine points, three rebounds, two steals and a coast-to-coast dunk in the first quarter before leaving with two fouls with 2:00 left in the quarter.

No problem.

Rontavious Gilbert and Edwin Winslow came off the bench and combined to score Monroe's first 12 points of the second quarter to build the lead to 34-16.

Gilbert, a sophomore, scored six points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked four shots in his backup role.

"Rontavious is our X factor,'' Davis said. "I don't think anybody in the state has a better big man coming off the bench. Robert went out of the game, and we didn't miss a beat.''

The Trojans' Joshua Lewis made three 3s in a row to close the gap to 36-31 late in the second quarter, but that's as close as Dougherty (7-9) could get. Lewis finished with 15 points (all on 3-pointers) and Arabian Willliams, who was coming off a brilliant 20-point night in a win against Albany, finished with 14 for the Trojans.

But the night -- just like this season -- belonged to Monroe and Arnold, who once again led the way. He finished with a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three slick assists inside that produced wide-open baskets for Monroe.

"I felt it (Tuesday),'' Arnold said. "I didn't think I had that good of a game against them the last time, so I had to make up for it. We had the big crowd in our gym, and I think that really got us going.''

They never slowed down.

Brown busted back-to-back 3s to open the second half and finished with 12 points, Brandon Blakely and Alexander Hunt scored 10 each as Monroe's guard play continued to improve, and Winslow scored nine points, all in the first half.

"When I went out of the game, they just kept the momentum going for us,'' Arnold said. "It's clicking And it's not just (Tuesday night). We're improving. We're getting better.''

That's a scary thought for the teams left on Monroe's schedule.

"They just out-played us,'' Dougherty coach Donald Poole said. "They're a good team, and we didn't take care of the ball and we didn't play smart basketball..''

Poole might want to text that message to the rest of the team's on Monroe's schedule.

"We'll win those games,'' Arnold said. "The way we're playing right now, we're not going to lose.''