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Crafton carries Bobcats into NEC semifinals
When the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team secured a home playoff game by defeating Robert Morris Feb. 24, senior guard Adam Gonzalez was excited for the opportunity to host a postseason contest at the TD Banknorth Sports Center. Little did he know, he wouldn’t be playing in it.
Gonzalez, who spent the game in a hospital bed due to an undisclosed illness, has been the team’s spark plug all season long. So when word got out that he would be missing the quarterfinals of the Northeast Conference tournament, many wondered who would pick up the slack.
Enter Van Crafton.
Crafton, a senior 3-point specialist and team captain, scored 23 points, including 12 in a row during one stretch, to lead the Bobcats to a 78-77 come-from-behind win over Fairleigh Dickinson Thursday night. Although Crafton’s four 3-pointers certainly helped the ‘Cats pull out the win, his two free throws with 5.9 seconds left in the game were crucial. After converting both, Crafton and the Bobcats were able to hold tough on defense as FDU’s Michael Peeples had his lay up rim out with the final seconds ticking away.
For his part, Crafton felt he only did what head coach Joe DeSantis asks him to do every time he steps on the court.
“As coach tells me all the time, ‘just catch and shoot, catch and shoot,'” Crafton said. “That’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do.”
DeSantis knew that Crafton would have to elevate his game with the absence of Gonzalez. The more Crafton played Thursday night, however, the more comfortable DeSantis felt leaving him out there.
“We know, as a team, we need Van to make shots,” DeSantis said. “Two or three 3-pointers a game to extend the defense, so guys like DeMario [Anderson] and guys like Adam [Gonzalez] and Chris Wehye can drive.”
At one point late in the first half, the ‘Cats trailed 41-26 after FDU’s Bernell Murray buried a 3-pointer, giving the Knights their biggest lead of the day. Quinnipiac cut the deficit to eight by halftime though, and took retook the lead at 59-58 on a Crafton 3-pointer with 10:37 remaining in the game. The Bobcats could never pull away, but Crafton’s free-throw shooting down the stretch gave them the cushion they needed to come away with the victory.
DeMario Anderson (17 points), Wehye (15 points) and Karl Anderson (11 points) all finished with double-digit scoring efforts. FDU was led by Andre Harris, who finished with 21 points.