The Bryant Bulldogs won’t officially join the Northeast Conference for another three years. Unfortunately for the Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s basketball team, they still have to face them.
The Bobcats (10-13), having already lost to the Bulldogs in November in New York City, lost to them again last Saturday, 72-68, at the TD Banknorth Sports Center.
“We took a big step back today,” Bobcats head coach Tom Moore said. “I felt we were building some nice defensive pride as a team. We followed up a bad first half defensively with an even worse second half defensively.”
Quinnipiac got off to a fast start, eventually building a 16-10 lead with 10:53 remaining in the half. Moore felt this was a turning point in the game.
“I think, in our minds, certain guys on the team became offensive players at that point,” Moore said. “We’re not talented enough offensively to win many shootouts with teams. Once we lost our edge defensively, we gave them a ton of confidence and they used it the rest of the game.”
Quinnipiac led Bryant (7-17) by one point going into halftime, 33-32. But Bryant came out of the intermission strong, beginning the half on an 11-3 run to take a seven-point lead.
“We can be a sporadic offensive team,” Moore said. “I always worry about us taking our offensive inadequacies and bringing them over to the defensive end.”
Bryant shot 55.3 percent from the field (26-for-47) and made nine of their 15 3-point attempts. Center Nick Pontes led all scorers with 21 points and was one of three Bulldogs in double-figures. Sophomore guard Adam Parzych had 19 points off the bench and senior guard Peter Lambert added 12.
Junior guard James Feldeine led the Bobcats with 15 points and sophomore forward Justin Rutty recorded his 10th double-double of the season (13 points and 14 rebounds). Freshman guard James Johnson scored 14 points and senior guard Bryan Geffen scored 12 as well.
Quinnipiac kept the game close in the middle stages of the second half, even tying the game at 55 with 8:03 remaining. However, Bryant built their largest lead of eight points over the next five minutes.
The Bobcats began to chip away at that lead, cutting it five with 1:36 remaining in play, once Moore instituted the full-court press.
“When we played them in New York the first time, we got down in the middle of the second half and used it late,” Moore said. “It got us a little back, but it got us tired too. Obviously with the loss now, if I had a chance to do it over, I definitely would’ve started earlier. I like it for its shock value. I don’t believe enough yet in it.”
They eventually made it a two-point game with 47 seconds remaining, but senior forward Andrew Lyell hit two clutch free throws – his only two points of the game – to extend the lead to four points with 16 seconds left.
Though Moore did not want to make excuses, he said the team was tired in practice the day before due to playing – and defeating – Sacred Heart 66-64.
“If we had a little more time to stay the course on defense for a couple of days in practice, I think it would’ve been better,” Moore said.
Quinnipiac will have a little more time to rest after this one. They don’t play again until tomorrow, when they go on the road to face St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash at 7 p.m.