Giving up an offensive rebound in the final minute seems out of the realm of possibility to the Quinnipiac Bobcats, who rank second in the nation in rebounds per game at 43.7.
However, with the score notched up at 50, Wagner’s Kenneth Ortiz threw out the stat book, pulling down an offensive board with just over 30 seconds to go in the game to secure the final possession for the Seahawks.
“When a shot goes up, it’s hard to now go find Ortiz,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “I think it was a question of that. Ortiz is much stronger than Dave. He is a very strong physical kid.”
Later in the extended possession, Ortiz penetrated left, spun baseline and drew a foul with only 4.6 seconds remaining on the clock.
Following a Quinnipiac timeout, Ortiz calmly stepped to the charity stripe and knocked down the first free throw to put Wagner up one.
The second free throw rattled off into the hands of Quinnipiac’s Ike Azotam, who then found Dave Johnson near midcourt. Johnson took a couple of dribbles and launched a desperation heave that was a mirror image of Gordon Hayward’s last second shot in the 2010 NCAA championship game all the way to the outcome. The ball hit the back rim and bounced away sealing the Bobcats’ fate, 51-50.
The offensive board was one of the only blemishes on an otherwise great defensive performance by the Bobcats. Quinnipiac forced 14 turnovers and held Wagner to just 51 points for the game. The Seahawks average 72.8 points per game on the season.
“We’ve extended our pressure a little bit in the last couple of games to try to get teams to take more of the shot clock,” Moore said. “We’re not really trying to turn anyone over, we’re just picking people up a little more full court.”
On the offensive end of the floor, points came few and far between for the Bobcats as well. They were never able to find a rhythm, shooting just 29 percent from the field and 17 percent from three-point land. The starting backcourt of James Johnson and Dave Johnson combined to shoot 2-for-25 from the floor.
“In the case of those guys going 2-for-25, I think all of the credit has to go to Wagner’s defensive intensity at the one and the two,” Moore said. “Ortiz and Rivers really can wear you down.”
Free throws kept Quinnipiac in the game, hitting 15-of-21 attempts. Wagner was 9-for-11 from the line.
Even with the struggles, Quinnipiac’s defensive prowess gave the Bobcats an opportunity to come away with the victory. The Bobcats went on a 7-0 run to put them up six with 12 minutes to go. The run included Azotam going coast-to-coast and finishing with a one-handed slam that sent the TD Bank Sports Center into a frenzy.
However, the lead was short-lived as Wagner clawed their way back into it.
Azotam led the way for the Bobcats with 15 points and 13 boards, which was good enough for his tenth double-double of the season. Zaid Hearst added nine for Quinnipiac.
The game featured five ties and saw seven lead changes.
The Bobcats will look to rebound Thursday when they visit Fairleigh Dickinson.