Second half meltdown hurts men’s basketball
One thing is for certain: Senior Day hasn’t always been good to the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team. Last year, the Bobcats fell at the hands of Robert Morris, 86-69, on Senior Day despite valiant efforts from then-senior Rob Monroe, who scored 26 points.
This year, the Bobcats (11-13, 6-9 NEC) fell behind after a 17-4 second-half spurt by Wagner, which walked away with a 64-60 victory Saturday on Senior Day.
The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Seahawks, which started off the season 8-3 (their best start in 26 years) before free-falling all the way to the NEC dungeon.
“We didn’t come out ready after halftime,” Quinnipiac forward Karl Anderson said. “They came out ready and they were hungry to win, and they just stripped our lead away.”
“When it comes down to it, Wagner out-toughened us, and we just didn’t rebound as a team,” said Quinnipiac guard John Winchester, who scored 10 points and dished out a game-high five assists. “We’ve got to box out and rebound.”
For the game, the Bobcats were out-boarded by a 47-36 margin. Twenty of Wagner’s boards came on the offensive end.
The Seahawks (11-13, 4-11 NEC) picked up key offensive rebounds during the game’s closing minutes. Jamal Smith pulled down a rebound off teammate Mark Porter’s missed jumper and converted it into a 3-point play. This put the Seahawks ahead 59-57 with 2:10 remaining.
Wagner’s DeEarnest McLemore received a fortuitous bounce on a jumper to make it 61-57 with 1:18 to go.
The opportunities were there, but in the end QU couldn’t capitalize. Consecutive 3-point attempts rimmed out, though Adam Gonzalez (team-high 14 points) kept the chances alive with 17 ticks left. Gonzalez muscled his way into the paint, fighting through traffic to bank a lay-up that would cut it to 61-60.
McLemore sank one of two at the line, but a questionable no-call on Craig Benson’s missed jump shot with eight seconds left the raucous crowd enraged as QU ran out of time.
Quinnipiac constructed an early 15-5 lead after Winchester lofted a pass to junior forward/center Victor Akinyanju, who leaped into mid-air and dropped in a bucket.
This forced Wagner head coach Mike Deane to call a 30-second timeout with 10:29 to play in the first.
The Seahawks outscored the ‘Cats by a 13-8 ratio over the next six and a half minutes, cutting Quinnipiac’s lead to five with the score at 23-18.
Quinnipiac closed out the half’s final 3:54 with a 13-4 run. A pair of acrobatic lay-ups from freshman point guard Job Casimir and Gonzalez sent the ‘Cats into the locker room with a 36-22 halftime advantage.
The Bobcats were outscored 42-24 in one of the most lopsided second halves of the season. After shooting an abysmal 5-of-26 (19.2 percent) in the first, Wagner connected on 12-of-28 from the floor after the break.
Foul trouble plagued the Bobcats throughout the second half. It resulted in 26 free throw attempts by the Seahawks, who would convert 17 of them.
Kevin Jolley, one of three seniors honored before the game, pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds to go with eight points. Benson and Nick Tipson were also honored.
The loss leaves the Bobcats in a close race for possession of seventh place. The next three games are critical.
“We have to win our next couple to keep our ranking up,” said Anderson, who had seven points, four rebounds, and two blocks in 21