For the fourth consecutive year, Quinnipiac men’s basketball will play in the NEC playoffs after back-to-back wins over the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights and the Long Island Blackbirds.
Baker helps Bobcats slay Knights:
Junior forward Jeremy Baker’s career-high 20 points surged the Bobcats past the Knights in a 78-62 rout at the TD Banknorth Sports Center on Feb. 19.
Baker, coming off the bench, scored early and often. He started his scoring spree with a conventional three-point play. The free throw put the Bobcats on top 9-8 with 15:33 left in the first half, and gave the Bobcats a lead they would hold the rest of the night.
On their following possession, Baker drained a three from the right corner. After Fairleigh Dickinson’s Alvin Mofunanya missed a layup, Baker missed a pull-up jumper and Mofunanya came down with the rebound. Baker promptly stole the ball back from Mofunanya and laid it in for his eighth consecutive point in a span of one minute and 28 seconds.
Baker returned from a shoulder injury earlier this month, and finally seemed to get back in the swing of things against the Knights.
“Whatever it takes to win,” he said. “I can play through pain, it’s just temporary. I took what they gave me. They played off me for the three; I stepped up and made big shots.”
Normally not a big 3-point threat, Baker drained both of his attempts from beyond the arc in the game.
“I think the hurdle that he overcame in his mind tonight with the shoulder is comfortably taking 3-pointers,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “The last thing for him to get over is a deep shot, because it stretches his range of motion on that shooting shoulder. Tonight was the first time I thought I saw him step in comfortably and feel good enough about the shoulder to take three’s.”
Though Baker was not the only one knocking down threes for the Bobcats, senior Bryan Geffen hit four of seven from downtown in his 14-point performance. Sophomore Justin Rutty continued his shooting efficiency going six for nine, totaling 13 points and six rebounds.
Baker’s layup with 11:37 to play in regulation put the Bobcats up 66-40, tying their largest lead in any game so far this season.
The Bobcats lost to the Knights 72-68 on Jan. 3, shooting 37.1 percent from the field. The Bobcats improved to 44.4 percent this time around.
Junior guard Cameron Tyler led the Knights with 17 points, but also turned the ball over five times.
“Cameron Tyler for FDU is such a great penetrating guard; it’s almost like playing the kid [Jaytornah] Wisseh from LIU,” Moore said. “We play defense in to out on Fairleigh Dickinson. They’re not very a good shooting team; they’re more of a driving team. LIU is built pretty much the same way.”
The Bobcats would have clinched an NEC playoff berth with wins from Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary’s that night. However, both teams were upset by Monmouth and Wagner, respectively. The Bobcats would have to wait until Saturday’s game against the Long Island Blackbirds for a second chance to clinch.
“LIU is third in the league, just a very good team,” Moore said. “We beat them here (at home), we’ll have to match that effort this Saturday.”
Rutty, Bobcats shoot down Blackbirds:
Bothered by a hip injury and early foul trouble in the win over the Knights, Rutty returned to his breakout-season form against the Blackbirds with 23 points and 16 rebounds on Feb. 21. It was his NEC-leading 11th double-double, and second against Long Island this season.
“It was great to have Justin Rutty back, physically, and more like himself,” Moore told QuinnipiacBobcats.com. “He was immense inside, both scoring and rebounding the ball.”
This game featured 13 lead changes and six ties throughout the game, nothing like the win two nights before against Fairleigh Dickinson.
Geffen’s second 3-pointer of the game broke a 61-61 tie with 4:34 left in the second half, giving the Bobcats a lead they would not surrender.
Wisseh’s three-point play and two free throws brought the Blackbirds to a meager one-point deficit with 18 seconds left. But freshman James Johnson and junior James Feldeine each hit a pair of free throws for the Bobcats, capping the game at 78-73.
Wisseh, the player Moore talked about on Thursday, led all scorers with 27 points, hitting all 11 of his free throws.
The win secured the Bobcats’ spot in the NEC playoffs with only two games remaining against Wagner on Feb. 26 and Central Connecticut State on Feb. 28 – both at home.
The Bobcat victory also broke Long Island’s 10-game home winning streak, and was the only loss to an NEC opponent at home all season.