Bobcats men’s basketball coach Tom Moore looked out at the media Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena with concentrated emotion. Even after a 72-60 loss at the hands of Fairfield in the Connecticut 6 Classic, Moore prefaced the entire press conference with one statement.
“I really like my team, I love my team,” Moore said. “They’re really fun to coach.”
After a slow start in the game, one in which the team trailed by 15 with 16:14 left in the second half, Quinnipiac stormed back to tie the game at 57 with a little over five minutes remaining in the contest.
However, a 15-1 run by the Stags over the next several possessions sent the Bobcats back to Hamden with an 0-1 record, and many fans questioning what is in store for a squad that finished 22-10 with last year’s team.
Adding to the chaos was the fact that the Bobcats played the game without last season’s leading scorer and First Team All-Northeast Conference senior guard James Johnson. Johnson had been suspended Friday evening for disciplinary reasons.
Moore said following the game that the team was searching for a “playmaker” like Johnson during the loss.
The Bobcats also played without junior guard Garvey Young, who has yet to step on the court for Quinnipiac due to sitting out last season after transferring from the University of Vermont.
Earlier in practice this year, Young injured himself diving for a ball. Still, Moore said there is optimism for seeing the Washington, D.C-native on the court soon.
“[Young]’s coming quick,” Moore said. “He’s rehabbing like crazy right now. I think it will be soon, but I couldn’t tell you how soon it would be.”
It is perhaps Young’s actions that spoke loudest for what his team’s focus is on heading into the following week.
On Saturday afternoon, Young walked around the concourse of the High Point Solutions Arena during the men’s hockey game against St. Lawrence sporting a yellow “Beat Yale” T-shirt, their next opponent.
The gesture is a testament to the no-looking-back attitude that Quinnipiac fans can expect of this young Bobcats team, who showcased their youth by playing seven freshmen against the Stags on Friday.
Notably, first-year guards Nate Gause and Zaid Hearst contributed diligently, dropping 12 and seven points, respectively, and both playing more than 30 minutes.
“Nate is one of the young guys who just grew up tonight. I thought him and Zaid handled themselves very good,” Moore said following the game.
With the return of James Johnson and eventually Young, a plethora of youth, alongside the presence of returning stars like sophomore Ike Azotam and junior Dave Johnson, the Bobcats very well may have a lot in store for the 2011-2012 season.
To further the positive outlook, Moore said he’s been very impressed by the intensity and consistency his team has shown so far.
“I keep saying to my staff after every practice that we had another one where we practiced well,” the fifth-year coach said.
Following the Yale game, Quinnipiac stays at home to take on Navy Saturday, and then travel to the nation’s capitol to face American next week.
While the stretch may be tough before conference play, it is clear in Moore’s mind that there is a lot to look forward to with this team.
“So far, this team is so new to me, and I’m so new to them,” he said. “So far, I love this team.”
With that being said, perhaps the Bobcat Den will soon love them too.