Runnin’ the Point: Reaction is greater than action

By on November 21, 2017

In what started off as a promising step forward, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team ultimately endured a disappointing weekend in its loses to Colorado, Wake Forest and Liberty.

Photo courtesy of Quinnipiac Athletics
At the Paradise Jam tournament in Lynchburg, Virginia, Quinnipiac dropped three-straight games to fall to 1-4 on the season.

It was sure to be a tough weekend from the start, as the Bobcats faced off against Pac-12 opponent Colorado. But that turned out to be the best game Quinnipiac played all weekend.

The Bobcats struggled in the first half, shooting just 8-for-33 (24.2 percent) from the field, getting out-rebounded, 22-17, and seeing senior center Chaise Daniels score just two points. Despite all these negatives, Quinnipiac went down just 32-29 at the break. The Bobcats had only three turnovers, forced 11 turnovers and were making their free throws (8-for-11 in first half).

Early in the second half, Quinnipiac finally heated up from the field, and took a 53-45 lead with just over nine minutes left. Then, with just under four minutes left, the lead was up to 60-47.

Quinnipiac was clinging to a 68-62 lead with only 54 seconds to play, and despite letting the game get closer than it ever should have been, the team appeared to be in position to pull off the upset if it could convert free throws.

A Colorado layup and 3-pointer after multiple Quinnipiac turnovers cut the lead to 68-67, and freshman point guard Rich Kelly went to the line with a chance to extend the lead to three with only seven seconds left. It worked out even better for the Bobcats, as Kelly made the first, and graduate student forward Alain Chigha grabbed the missed second shot and got fouled. Chigha had a chance to give Quinnipiac a four-point lead and essentially seal the win.

That’s when the course of the weekend changed.

Chigha missed both free throws, Colorado freshman McKinley Wright (21 points) grabbed the rebound, dribbled down the court and buried a three that bounced high off the front of the rim and in to give the Buffaloes a 70-69 win.

Free throws cost the Bobcats a second-straight game after losing to Brown by seven on Monday when they missed 14 free throws.

“It would be a shame if we didn’t build on some of the positive things we did tonight, and let the loss take the air out of us,” Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said after the game, via QuinnipiacBobcats.com. “We’ll watch a little bit of film from this game, but for the most part just move on to the next opponent.”

Quinnipiac seemed unable to recover from its opening-game heartbreak, falling 72-55 to the ACC’s Wake Forest. It was the second straight power-conference team the Bobcats fell to.

Sunday appeared to be the Bobcats’ best chance at victory against tournament-host Liberty, who had also lost its first two games of the weekend. Quinnipiac led 39-35 at the half, but couldn’t keep the Flames off the foul line, where they hit 20-of-21 free throws. This led to a 84-72 Liberty win.

Erin Kane | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
Before the season, all the anticipation for Quinnipiac was centered around Daniels, who was the team’s top returning scorer at 13.3 points per game (PPG). But it has been the play of fellow senior Cam Young that has kept the Bobcat offense clicking through five games.

After not scoring a single point in his first season in Hamden last year, Young has 82 through five games this year, good for a team-leading 16.4 PPG. He also put up career-highs against Colorado and Liberty with 26 in each game.

Young’s continued emergence is essential for the Bobcats going forward, as his scoring and athleticism will be relied upon in key situations.

Kelly is another player that Dunleavy will rely on heavily throughout the season. Like the first two games, Kelly had an up-and-down weekend.

In the final minute of Friday’s loss to Colorado, Kelly had two key turnovers and a missed free throw. He had six turnovers in the game after committing five in the loss to Brown on Nov. 13.

But in Sunday’s loss to Liberty, Kelly dropped a career-high 18 points to go along with four assists.

“We put the ball in his hands at the end of the game, and we trust his decision-making,” Dunleavy said after the loss to Brown. “I think like most of our guys, guarding the ball is something we can improve. I’m testing him with those minutes. He’s going to be tired at the end of the game defensively, so it’s just something he’s going to have to adapt to.”

Erin Kane | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
The adjustments that Kelly makes to his game will be a determining factor in Quinnipiac’s season. If he can limit his turnovers and keep up his assist and scoring numbers, the Bobcats will have a chance to compete in most of their games.

Despite the negative results on the scoreboard this weekend, the greater test for these Bobcats will be how they respond next week. Quinnipiac hosts Maine and UMass on Sunday and Wednesday, respectively, and if the team use the lessons it learned in Virginia, it will be better served going forward.

“We did some things tonight that were ugly, that looked bad, that led to a loss; but we have to continue to judge ourselves based on our mentality,” Dunleavy said after the Brown loss. “Are we open to getting better? Are we open to new ideas? Right now, I think we are. The challenge is what team can weather the storm and keep that mentality for the whole year.”

Quinnipiac must weather the storm right now and come out better on the other side, or else this season is going to take a turn in the wrong direction. The games following the Bobcats’ turkey day feasts will be a strong indicator of the way the rest of the season could shake out.

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About Logan Reardon

Associate Sports Editor