Finding a way to win against high-ranked NEC teams has been Quinnipiac men’s basketball’s weakness all year. The Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers’ impenetrable defense contained the Bobcats’ core group, but the Bobcats finally broke out of their funk against Long Island.
The Mountaineers were able to come back from a slow start by wearing down the Bobcats’ thin lineup, taking the 60-42 victory on Jan. 29.
Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore’s new approach played a huge factor in the game. As defending NEC champions, the Mountaineers have become a known force in the league, especially on defense.
“Offensively we were trying to shorten the game to keep our core players out there,” Moore said. “We’ve been practicing the same offense for 80 practices and then something totally different in our last six practices. We played a very tough defensive team.”
The Bobcats jumped out of the gates with a 10-2 start, but that was their largest lead all game. Junior forward James Feldeine played a big role in this run. He made two consecutive contested shots, and then stole an inbounds pass, which led to a Bryan Geffen three-pointer.
Will Holland gave the Mountaineers a burst off the bench, knocking down a three, then converting a three-point play to knot the game at 10.
The Bobcats were down 29-23 at half, but that was the closest they would come for the rest of the game.
The Mountaineers depth allowed them to keep fresh players on the court all game, which showed in the second half. In the game, the Bobcats had to keep Feldeine, Geffen, James Johnson and Justin Rutty in for over 33 minutes each.
“We played as up-tempo as they would allow us,” Mountaineers head coach Milan Brown said. “Having pressure on the basketball with Jeremy [Goode’s] speed, it’s tough to handle him.”
Goode was huge for the Mountaineers on both ends of the ball. He had five of the team’s eleven steals for the game. He was a pest to the Bobcats all game, supplying half-court pressure causing all kinds of havoc. He had a team-leading 19 points, three three-pointers and shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
The Mountaineers now stand alone in second place at 8-3, a game and a half behind Robert Morris.
The Bobcats snapped their four-game skid against NEC foe Long Island, defeating the Blackbirds 69-63 on Jan. 31.
The Bobcats fell behind early, trailing 10-0 after the first five minutes of the game. It took them nearly the whole first half to come back; tying the game at 26 with 2:49 left in the first half.
Taking a three-point lead into the second half, the Bobcats gave the lead right back letting the Blackbirds start the half with a 6-0 run. The game remained tight, with both teams exchanging baskets throughout most of the second half.
Feldeine’s jumper at 2:56 gave the Bobcats a lead that they would not relinquish. Feldeine finished with 11 points and three rebounds, but Rutty was the real star.
He posted 16 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. Hitting eight out of 11 free throws was far from the norm for Rutty, who sported an abysmal 39.5 free-throw percentage going into the game.
The Bobcats are now tied for sixth in the NEC with St. Francis (N.Y.) at 5-6. Seven of their eight remaining games are against conference opponents, so they will have a chance to climb back into the mix looking for their fifth straight playoff appearance.