Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s basketball team hadn’t beaten Central Connecticut in Hamden since Jan. 7, 1981. That date, more than 28 years ago, seems like an eternity in basketball years. However, that streak came to end on Saturday when the Bobcats beat the Blue Devils 69-55 behind junior James Feldeine’s game-high 25 points.
Sixteen of those 25 points came in the first half, which was a tightly-contested battle throughout. Central had the early advantage, building a lead as big as eight points with 10:39 remaining in the half. However, Feldeine would hit on 4-of-5 3-pointers in the half, including one with 5:44 remaining to take the lead back from Central. Central had built a 19-11 lead – its largest lead of the game – but Feldeine scored nine more points before the end of the half.
When the first half was settled, Quinnipiac had a two-point lead, and by the way both teams were playing, it looked like the second half would be just as close.
On the contrary, the Bobcats played stingy defense, allowing only 29.6 percent shooting from the field, outscoring the Blue Devils by 12 in the half to win by 14.
“We were a little more attentive defensively and tougher-minded defensively in the second half,” head coach Tom Moore said. “To throw up 30 percent field-goal percentage defense in the second half against those guys is something I’m really proud of.”
Feldeine shot 7-of-13 overall and went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line to help Quinnipiac overcome a shaky start.
“I can think of numerous games offensively where we look a little unsure the first two or three trips down the court,” Moore said. “But James is a very aggressive, confident offensive player, and he was that way again today.”
Central hung around in the beginning of the second half. The two teams traded one-point leads for the first four minutes of the half before junior guard Jeremy Baker hit a lay-up and got fouled with 14:55 on the clock. The made free throw gave Quinnipiac a four-point lead, which they eventually built to eight with 13-and-a-half minutes remaining.
A Feldeine 3-pointer gave Quinnipiac a nine-point lead with 6:01 left, and Quinnipiac finally held a double-digit lead when senior Bryan Geffen hit a very long 3-pointer that went off the backboard and rattled around the rim as the shot clock was expiring.
Geffen, who was honored during pregame Senior Day ceremonies, scored 12 points. Freshman guard James Johnson added 11, giving Quinnipiac three players in double figures.
Once Geffen hit that 3-pointer, it was smooth-sailing for the Bobcats. Central cut the Bobcats’ lead to nine at the 2:01 mark, but made free throws by Feldeine down the stretch gave Quinnipiac its largest lead of 14 as the clock expired.
The win clinched the fifth seed for the Bobcats in the NEC playoffs. They will now travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., to face the No. 4 Long Island University in the NEC quarterfinals. The Bobcats have beaten the Blackbirds twice already this season, including a 78-73 road victory on Feb. 21.