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Men’s Basketball: Feldeine, Rutty bring the thunder
Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore knows there won’t be any at-large bids for the NCAA tournament from the Northeast Conference. That makes victories like their 73-52 in-conference win against Fairleigh Dickinson that much more important.
“We targeted this as a must-win game for about two weeks,” Moore said.
Quinnipiac junior forward Justin Rutty led all players with 23 points and eight rebounds, and senior forward James Feldeine chipped in 22 points in the victory.
“Coach Moore stressed how important these NEC games are,” Rutty said. “The leaders on the team know how important these games are, and we know we have to go out and play hard.”
It was the Bobcats’ third straight win in conference openers since Moore’s arrival.
“At this level of college basketball, the league and the league tournament are the be-all and end-all,” Moore said. “There are no at-large bids coming out of this conference, so that’s what we live for. It’s great to get the first one.”
The Bobcats jumped out to an early 18-4 lead and were never threatened after that. Feldeine had 15 points in the first half on 6-of-10 shooting, and added three assists.
Rutty, a preseason All-Conference player added eight first-half points, shooting 3-for-4 from the field and added five rebounds while the Bobcats took a commanding 36-26 lead into halftime.
“In the first six games I’ve either been on or Justin’s been on, and today was really the first game where we’ve both been on our game,” Feldeine said. “If both of us can play the way we played today throughout the season, and if we can have a third option on the team step up, it’s going to be a good season.”
The Bobcats came out to play the second half with the same intensity, and at one point controlled a 28-point lead. They shot 45 percent from the field, including 30 percent from 3-point distance where they connected for a season-high seven 3-pointers.
“I was happy with how the second half played out, score wise,” Moore said. “I thought we played with a little bit more focus in the second half. That’s a real dangerous team we played today because they have a lot of guys that can score. To hold them to 32 percent field goal percentage is a pretty significant achievement. I don’t think a lot of teams will hold them to 32 percent this year.”
Sean Baptiste led the Knights with 15 points in the first half, but only scored six in the second to finish the game with 21.
“Jeremy Baker was really strong against him,” Moore said. “Jeremy’s had some sub-par defensive games recently, but he was on his hip all game, which gave him a chance to catch up to him. Jeremy should get most of the credit for the good defensive play in the second half.”
Quinnipiac freshman guard Dave Johnson added 10 points and a team high six assists, along with three steals coming off the bench. He was 4-for-5 from the field, including 2-for-2 from the 3-point line in 26 minutes of action.
“Dave was fantastic offensively early in the game,” Moore said. “He’s a very intelligent offensive player, and he might have the highest offensive IQ out of anyone on the team.”
Starting guard James Johnson, on the other hand, didn’t have his best game of the year, collecting four points and four assists in 18 minutes.
The Bobcats won’t play another NEC game until Jan. 2, when they will travel to West Long Branch, N.J., to face Monmouth.