In a week of close-but-no-cigar efforts, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team dropped their last two games, losing to Sacred Heart 70-66 and Central Connecticut 59-55. With these two losses, the Bobcats fall to 8-11 (4-5 NEC).
Justin Rutty led the Bobcats with 22 points and a career-high 18 rebounds last Thursday. But that was not enough to stop the Pioneers (7-11, 4-4 NEC) from steam-rolling their way to victory in front of a crowd of 2,167 at the TD Banknorth Sports Center.
Coming off a road loss to Monmouth, the Bobcats didn’t falter in the first half. Rutty scored the first basket of the game, and Quinnipiac continued to dominate.
Halfway through the period, the Bobcats were up by 11. In the 14th minute, Bryan Geffen hit his second three-pointer of the game to give the Bobcats a 12-point lead.
“At one point, I thought Quinnipiac was en route to 100 points with that defense,” Pioneer head coach Dave Bike said following the victory.
The Pioneers started to make a run near the end of the first half, outscoring the Bobcats 8-2 in a stretch of three minutes, but the Bobcats stayed on top.
With 6.8 seconds left in the half, Pioneer junior Chauncey Hardy turned the ball over and committed a foul. On the inbounds pass, James Johnson took the ball down the court and passed it to Geffen. Geffen dished the ball to Sean Light, who appeared to lose control of the ball, but got the ball into Eric Coggins hands. As time was expiring, Coggins made a layup to give the Bobcats a 39-34 lead heading into the half.
Sacred Heart came out strong in the second half, taking the lead for the first time in the game on a Joey Henley layup with 14:53 left to play. Henley was fouled on the play by Coggins. Henley missed his free throw attempt, but fellow Pioneer Ryon Howard was there for the second effort and gave the Pioneers a 48-45 lead.
Quinnipiac came back and made it a two-point game with 10 minutes left, but Sacred Heart quickly rebounded with three layups to make it 58-52 game with 9:21 remaining.
The Bobcats tied the game up at 58 apiece with 7:08 in the half, but that is the closest they would get. The teams traded the next four buckets to tie the game at 62 with four minutes left, but Howard made two layups to give the Pioneers a 66-62 lead. The Pioneers never turned back and walked away with the victory.
Following the game, Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore commented on Rutty’s performance.
“Not only is (Rutty) right now, head and shoulders, our best player, but he’s morphed into our best competitor, too,” Moore said. “I’m looking for guys who can compete longer and deeper into games. I’m really disappointed in a lot of our guys’ ability to keep grinding through tough times on the court. not being great players, but just grinding through tough times. At times, we play young. At times, we play like we’re waiting for the hammer to fall. Justin never plays that way. His will and competitiveness are very strong.”
Saturday was more of the same for the Bobcats, as they were unable to beat intrastate rival Central. Freshman James Johnson tied his career high with 17 points, and sophomore Justin Rutty compiled his second consecutive double-double, his sixth of the season, with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
In the final three minutes of play, the Bobcats went on an 8-0 run to cut the Blue Devil lead down to three with seven seconds remaining. However, the Blue Devils could not be stopped from the free-throw line, going 16-for-18 during the game and scoring their final 12 points on free throws.
“I’m really proud of our effort today,” Moore told quinnipiacbobcats.com after the loss. “They really bought into and believed in the game plan. They sacrificed individual accomplishments to try to win. It was an unselfish and gutty effort by a nucleus of four.”
The Bobcats return to action this week with home games against Mount St. Mary’s on tomorrow and Long Island on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.