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- Crossing the line
Men’s basketball mounts comeback, beats Sacred Heart
Double-doubles for Lance Brown and Ike Azotam in 59-54 win
The Pioneers’ 10-point lead seemed like it was going to stand at the TD Bank Sports Center.
Deontay Twyman had different plans in mind.
Twyman scored eight of his 15 points in Quinnipiac’s 13-0 run that lasted more than eight minutes, while Lance Brown and Ike Azotam each had double-doubles, leading the Bobcats to a 59-54 comeback victory Wednesday night.
“It started with defense. We were able to get stops,” Twyman said. “Then our transition when they tried to set up the zone, I believe that’s when the run kind of started, by getting baskets in transition. On offense we kind of rushed a little bit, but we settled down and were able to get shots we wanted, and we were able to execute.”
Both Brown and Azotam each had career-highs in rebounds with 13, while they finished with 13 and 16 points, respectively. Azotam’s 16 points were a career-high.
“I went into this game looking to be aggressive, not trying to step away,” Azotam said. “When Jamee (Jackson) wasn’t playing well and Rutty was in foul trouble, I knew I had to step up.
“You never know when it’s going to be your calling card, so you have to be ready. Tonight was a good example of that.”
Brown and Azotam each brought down seven rebounds from the offensive glass. The Bobcats used their 19 offensive rebounds to generate 23 second-chance points.
“We work so hard in practice everyday with rebounding,” Brown said. “It’s all in the heart and toughness. Coach stresses to be tough and I think we buy into it.”
The Bobcats, the nation’s leading rebounding team, brought down 44 boards in the game, compared to Sacred Heart’s 25, and outscored the Pioneers 34-18 in the paint.
“They have two guys (Brown and Azotam) who have more rebounds then our whole team,” Sacred Heart head coach Dave Bike said. “Throughout the year I want to say we were over achieving on rebounding, but I think the last two games we have been underachieving.”
Over the past three games the Pioneers have been outrebounded by 44 rebounds.
“What is it? Size? Strength? Technique? Desire?” Bike said. “I don’t know.”
Twyman, who also had five rebounds, scored 11 of his points in the second half on 4-6 shooting.
“When we came out in the second half we already knew it was going to be a defensive game,” Twyman said. “Then they came out and hit their first couple of shots.”
The Pioneers (9-15, 4-9 NEC) led 34-33 at the half and started the second half on a 10-1 run., forcing five turnovers in the span.
A layup by Louis Montes, followed by two baskets by Gibson, and ending with an alley-oop slam from Gibson to Jerrell Thompson gave SHU a 44-34 lead entering the first media timeout of the half.
The Bobcats (16-8, 8-5 NEC) trailed 48-39 at the second media timeout before their comeback began.
“After that we got it going on defense and we got our energy back,” Twyman said. “Everyone was talking, and we just tried to keep it going from there.”
Twyman hit a jumper from the left wing to cut the deficit to seven, then Azotam hit a put-back jumper off a Rutty miss to cut it to five. Brown hit a free throw two minutes later, followed by a breakaway layup by Twyman.
Twyman hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:33 to go to give the Bobcats their first lead since they were up 33-32 with less than a minute left in the first half.
“We came out flat in the first half and didn’t have much energy on defense, and that was the result of the first half,” Twyman said. “When we turned it around we came out with more energy.
“The main thing is our defense. We’re all talking about having energy on defense. We feel like we can beat anyone.”
QU shot 7-16 from the second media timeout until the end of the game.
Sacred Heart cut Quinnipiac’s lead to 55-54 with 36 seconds left, but the Bobcats were able to hold on. Azotam hit his first of two free throws, and then Brown got an offensive rebound off the miss.
Brown made one of his free throw attempts, brought down a rebound after Thompson’s game-tying attempt was off target, broke free of SHU defenders, and slammed it home with two hands to seal the deal.
The Pioneers, who had shot 7-13 to start the second half, shot 1-11 over the last 12 minutes. They shot 45.5 percent from long range in the first half, but shot 0-9 in the second half. Gibson, who shot 8-17 from the field, only made one basket from long distance in eight shots.
“We were just more alive and more alert from the screens,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “Once their lead got up to 10, we stopped 15 of their next 18 possessions, with about 10 turnovers mixed in, and this was a team that only turned the ball over three times in the first half.”
While Azotam, Twyman and Brown combined to score 44 points, leading scorer James Johnson struggled.
The conference’s second-leading scorer missed his first 10 shots of the game. Johnson had averaged 22.3 points per game in his last four games, including a career-high 38 against Robert Morris. He scored his first point on a free-throw attempt 3:26 in the second half.
“Our plan was to go 2-3 zone on [Johnson] and see if he could hit shots,” Gibson said. “I guess he just couldn’t. Plus we had a hand in his face.”
Johnson, who tied Kason Mims’ Quinnipiac Division-I record 88-game consecutive start streak, tallied a season-low three points, one point more than his career-low, on 1-13 shooting. While he compiled five assists, he also turned the ball over four times.
“When you throw a pass and someone deflects it, it kind of messes with you mentally,” said Gibson, who scored 21 points. “We were deflecting a lot of passes and I think that got to him.”
Rutty, starting for the first time since Jan. 3, only scored four points on 2-6 shooting and brought down six rebounds in 18 minutes of play, but fouled out of the game with less than a minute to go.
Rutty only played six minutes in the first half with two personal fouls. He was charged with his third personal foul early in the second half and recorded his fourth with more than eight minutes to go.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a game here in Justin and James Johnson’s two and-a-half years together where they’ve gone 3-19,” Moore said. “To get a win on a night when you get three baskets from those two guys speaks to other guys stepping up.
“I hope we don’t have a game the rest of the year when we get three hoops out of them.”
Gibson also led the Pioneers with six rebounds, while Montes had 11 points. Thompson, who averages over 12 points per game, scored four points and recorded four assists too.
The Bobcats played without freshmen Dominique Langston (concussion) and Tevin Baskin (hand).
The two teams continue their home-and-home series Monday at Sacred Heart at 7 p.m.