Bobcats clinch second place with win over Monmouth, Rutty racks up 17-17 [Slideshow]

Robin Schuppert

The last time Justin Rutty suited up to play against Monmouth University, he was forced to sit on the sidelines with an elbow injury.

On Thursday night, once again against Monmouth, the healthy senior sat in the driver’s seat.

Rutty scored 17 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in Quinnipiac’s 64-59 victory over Monmouth at the Bank.

The Bobcats (20-8, 12-5 NEC) clinched second place in the Northeast Conference with the win – their 20th of the season.

The first round of the NEC Tournament will be held on March 3. The Bobcats, who could potentially host two games in the tournament, will play Mount St. Mary’s or St. Francis (Pa.) in the first round.

“The team effort we gave tonight won’t translate well deep into the NEC tournament,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “It’s got to be better – it’s got to be more focused on both ends and it’s got to be more consistent throughout the team.”

Even with a 16-point lead with 1:45 left in the first half, the game wasn’t won in cruise control. Monmouth (9-20, 5-12), who came into the game in second-to-last place in the NEC, took a 46-45 lead with 8:43 remaining.

“I didn’t feel tonight that we played with enough maturity and enough energy for enough of the game,” Moore said. “With what we had at stake I thought we were a bit too quite.”

Rutty, who missed the team’s 72-70 win over Monmouth earlier in the season with the elbow injury, went 7-for-15 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds on the offensive glass.

Since Rutty’s return on Jan. 27 vs. Robert Morris, the Bobcats have gone 8-1. Their only loss came against Long Island University.

“We’re making a good run and that’s really good going into tournament time,” Rutty said. “If we get the last regular season game I feel like we’ll be one of the hottest teams in the league, besides LIU, but we’ll be one of the hottest teams going into the tournament.”

Freshman forward Ike Azotam chipped in 13 points and five rebounds for Quinnipiac. James Johnson added 11 points and five assists.

Monmouth’s James Hett led the Hawks with 15 points and three rebounds., playing all 40 minutes of the game.

The Bobcats will play their final game of the regular season Saturday afternoon, when they host Fairleigh Dickinson University at 4 p.m.

Photo credit: Matt Eisenberg