Men’s basketball hits the road
When a team is picked to win its conference, especially by five different publications, expectations can be higher than reality. The men’s basketball team, selected by Sports Illustrated, ESPN.com, Athlon, Street and Smith’s and Lindy’s, to win the Northeast Conference, NEC, and advance for the first time to the NCAA Tournament, has fallen into this proverbial trap.
After losing its first two games of the season at the FIU Tip-Off Classic in Florida to Montana State, 87-75, and Florida International, 66-65, the men’s team traveled to Hilo, Hawaii, for the Hawaii-Hilo Invitational Tournament. While in Hawaii, the squad faced Rider of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Dartmouth of the Ivy League, and host Hawaii-Hilo of the Pacific West Conference.
The team’s road trip began against Montana State. A generally unknown team, the Bobcats, representing the Big Sky Conference, came out shooting against Quinnipiac and never cooled down. After going into the half with a 50-29 lead, the Bobcats of Montana kept lighting up the scoreboard on Quinnipiac’s Bobcats. For the game, Montana State shot .554. State was also 8-17, .471, from behind the three point arc. QU in contrast missed 11 of the 20 total free throws attempted and shot .426 from the field. Quinnipiac was 8-23, .348, from long range.
State had five players in double figures, led by senior Danny Faaborg who scored 19 points and was 5-6 from three point land.
Quinnipiac had four players in double figures, led by game higher scorer and preseason NEC all-first team selection Rob Monroe, who poured in 23 points and also had a team high six assists. Senior co-captain Kason Mims had 17 points and eight rebounds. Junior power forward C.J. Vick recorded his first double-double of the season, registering 10 points and a team high 11 rebounds.
With the loss, Quinnipiac advanced to the third place game against tournament host Florida International who fell to Howard in the opening round by 11 points.
The Bobcats played much tougher defense this time out, holding Panthers to .452 shooting from the field. QU went into the half with a 29-28 lead. The second half was played equally as close. With :08 left, Panther junior Harry Lum hit a pair of free throws to seal the Bobcats fate, and giving his team a 66-65 victory. The Bobcats were in foul trouble a majority of the game, having a total of 29 team fouls called. Every Bobcat had at least one foul except for sophomore Jerry Fiefie. Three players, Vick, Monroe, and junior transfer Pierre Faye, all had four personal fouls. The Panthers converted 22 of their 36 free throw attempts. Senior co-captain Rashaun Banjo had a team high 17 points and 10 rebounds. Monroe and freshman Van Crafton each had 12 points while Mims and Craig Benson chipped in with 10 a piece.
After the 0-2 start, the Bobcats traveled to Hilo, Hawaii, for the Hilo Shootout and looked to turn the early season around. Rider, Dartmouth, and Hawaii-Hilo were also apart of the tournament. In the opening game of the tournament, the Bobcats played Rider on Friday, November 29. The Bobcats, again plagued by fouls, were down 44-30 at the half. The second half did not prove to be any more beneficial for the Bobcats has the fell behind even more, and eventually lost the game, 89-70. “Rider is terrific,” said Bobcat head coach Joe DeSantis.
The Broncos exploited the Bobcat defense, shooting .566 for the game. Both teams had four players in double figures with Bronco sophomore forward Edwin Muniz leading all scorers with 23 points and a game high eight rebounds. The Bobcats had four players in double figures with Monroe leading the way with 15 points and a team high six assists. Mims and Vick both had 11 points while Benson chipped in 10. Vick also led the team in rebounding for the second time this season with five. Freshman Christian Burns fouled out in eight minutes of playing time while Vick and Banjo both amassed four fouls each. The Bobcats have had over twenty fouls in each of the first three games, with 23, 29, and 26 fouls respectively.
Next on tap for the Bobcats was Ivy League opponent Dartmouth. The Big Green is known as a team with an outstanding basketball system but lackluster talent. “This team Dartmouth, they have a system, they don’t necessarily have the players, but they have the system,” said DeSantis after the game.
Coming into the game, the Bobcats looked to get off their three game season starting losing streak. If there was a team to do it against, Dartmouth was it.
The Bobcats played tough in the first half, going into the intermission up two; 36-34. The second half went back and forth with both teams struggling to hold the lead. With :08 seconds left in the game, Quinnipiac found themselves down a point. Banjo was fouled and went to the line for two shots. He calmly buried both and Dartmouth failed to convert a game winning bucket to give the Bobcats their first victory of the season, 66-65. Banjo, along with hitting the two clutch free throws, scored a team high 15 points and pulled down a game high 10 rebounds. This was Banjo’s second double-double of this young season. Monroe and Benson chipped in 14 and 13 points respectively. Mims dished out a game high eight dimes. “We’re going to get better. This will help,” said DeSantis about the win.
The Bobcats once again committed over 20 team fouls, being whistled for 24 infractions. That makes the fourth straight game with over 20.
Quinnipiac post players attempted a total of 10 shots for the game. In comparison, the perimeter players shot 29 three pointers, making 10 of them. This is something coach DeSantis feels the team needs to work on.
Dartmouth junior David Gardner scored a game high 16 points on just four of five shooting from the field, but he did make eight of his 13 free throw attempts.
Now with their first win under their belt, the Bobcats moved on to face tournament host Hawaii-Hilo on Sunday November 30.
Hilo, a virtual unknown in the world of college basketball, is a team that could win on any given night, except the night that they played the Bobcats. QU was able to rattle off its second win in as many nights, a 85-74 win, marking the highest offensive output thus far in the season. The ‘Cats were led by Monroe who had a career high 36 points and was able to snag the tournament MVP award. He averaged 21.7 points per game in the three game tournament. Mims chipped in 13 points and reached the 1,000 point plateau for his career. He is one of three Braves/Bobcats to reach this feat exclusively at the Division 1 level. Vick controlled the boards, pulling down a career high 16 rebounds to help the Bobcats turn a 0-3 start to a 2-3 road trip. “Even if we [start] 2-7 [or] 1-8, we still have a chance to win the league,” said DeSantis
Now with the two consecutive wins, the Bobcats have something to build on. Their next four games are all on the road against NEC rival Central Connecticut State, Drexel, UConn, and Notre Dame. The ‘Cats first home game of the season will be December 30 against Northern Arizona.