Men’s basketball clinches regular-season crown [Slideshow]
Photo credits: Andrew Vazzano
The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team earned its first-ever Northeast Conference regular season title with a 74-65 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson University on Saturday.
Senior forward Jeremy Baker paved the way for the Bobcats, scoring a game-high 20 points. Junior forward Justin Rutty added 14 points and 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season. Sophomore guard James Johnson was the last Bobcat in double figures, chipping in 13 points and handing out five assists.
The title gives Quinnipiac the first seed in the NEC Tournament and home-court advantage throughout. The Bobcats are also granted an automatic bid in the postseason National Invitational Tournament. If the Bobcats can win the NEC Tournament, they will clinch their first ever NCAA Tournament berth.
Quinnipiac will host eighth-seeded Monmouth at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the NEC Tournament. Quinnipiac split the regular season series with the Hawks, with the home team being victorious in both games.
“We’ve positioned ourselves as well as we possibly could position ourselves,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “I’m very proud of this group of young men. I’m mostly proud of their maturity and unselfishness.
“It’s a group that really gives a lot of themselves without complaining on every level. It’s nice to go on this journey with this group of kids. They mean a lot to me.”
Quinnipiac never trailed in the game and led by as many as 17 points on a three-point play from Baker with 13:10 remaining.
Fairleigh Dickinson rallied late in the second half to cut the deficit to three. The 15-3 run by the Knights brought the score to 65-62 with 3:26 left in the game, but stellar free-throw shooting from Baker and Johnson over the final three minutes secured the win for the Bobcats.
A Robert Morris loss to Mount St. Mary’s earlier in the day opened the door for the Bobcats and they seized the opportunity. Both Quinnipiac and Robert Morris finished the regular season with a 15-3 conference record but the tie-breaker was awarded to the Bobcats because they held the advantage in the head-to-head matchup.