Winter break success for men’s basketball

Lenny Neslin

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team has won its last five games and is undefeated at home, bumping them up to a three-way tie for first place in the Northeast Conference.

The combination of rebounding and strong defensive play has helped the Bobcats rack up wins. The Bobcats have outrebounded their last 17 consecutive opponents, including a 35-31 advantage against Bryant last Saturday. Defensively, the Bobcats allowed fewer than 66 points to any opponent in their first five home games, holding three teams in the 50s.

This is the third full season with the TD Bank Sports Center serving as the Bobcats’ home court. Their 6-0 start at home is their best start ever at the Bank. In fact, the team has never even enjoyed a winning record in the new arena, going 6-7 last season and 7-7 during the 2007-2008 campaign.

With six home games left on the schedule, that trend is bound to change. With everyone now back from winter break, the student section will return to full strength and should make the TD Bank Sports Center an even tougher place to play for visiting teams.

Led by veteran leaders and potential first-team All-NEC performers James Feldeine and Justin Rutty, the Bobcats look to stay a perfect 7-0 at home when they host Bryant tomorrow.

Feldeine earned his third career NEC Player of the Week Award after leading the Bobcats in victories over Central Connecticut State and Bryant last week. He also scored the 1,000th point of his career against Mount St. Mary’s after nailing a 3-pointer in the first half.

“After I hit that three and saw everybody stood up I realized that I finally got it,” Feldeine told ESPN Radio’s Jason Page after reaching the milestone. “When coach called timeout and I heard them announce it over the loud speaker I got really excited.”

Rutty was named Quinnipiac’s Athlete of the Month for December and is the only player in the NEC averaging a double-double (13.8 points, 10.4 rebounds). He has also made a big effort to improve his free throw shooting, Feldeine said.

“Every single day after practice (Rutty) shoots about 100 free throws with an assistant coach,” he said. “He’s really worked hard on his free throws at practice.”

Feldeine also was impressed with freshman guard Dave Johnson, who has been splitting point guard duties with sophomore James Johnson.

“Dave Johnson is pushing the ball really well,” Feldeine said. “I didn’t know he was going to be this big a factor at this point of the season.

When Page brought up the idea of possibly reaching the NCAA Tournament in the radio interview, Feldeine got very excited.

“Everything I’ve been through since my freshman year, it’s going to mean the world to me,” Feldeine said. “I really don’t care about scoring so many points; I really just want to get to the tournament.”

To make the tournament, the Bobcats will most likely have to win the NEC Tournament, as they are doubtful to get an at-large bid due to their weak strength of schedule.

Starting with the Bryant game tomorrow, Quinnipiac has 12 conference games left on its schedule, including Robert Morris and Long Island, who are both tied with Quinnipiac for the top spot in the NEC.