Before the Quinnipiac men’s basketball season started, co-captain Jared Grasso said at the team’s media dinner, “there’s no reason we can’t compete to win the title.” And compete they did.
The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team (14-17, 10-10 in the Northeast Conference) had been waiting for this game since their move to Division I four years ago.
On March 6, the QU men played on national television (ESPN2) for the first time, and they were playing for the right to go to the NCAA tournament.
Their opponent is number one seeded Central Connecticut State University (27-4, 20-1 NEC). Quinnipiac, who was playing in their first NEC tournament entered as the number seven seed. They had upset the number two seeded Wagner and the number three seeded Maryland-Baltimore County to advance to the finals.
For nearly 39 minutes of the game the Quinnipiac men had many believing that they may be headed off to the NCAA tournament.
Midway through the second half of the game CCSU went on a 10-0 run and Quinnipiac never lead again.
In the last minute of the game it was clear that Central had pulled ahead for good and would come away with a 78-71 win and a bid to the NCAA tournament.
“We were fighting right up until the end,” said Ryan Errico, a senior Quinnipiac fan speaking about the players and the fans. “I am proud of the team and the school because they never gave up.”
Inside the Detrick Gym was electrifying. The type of men’s college basketball atmosphere any player dreams of being in.
The two teams were backed by a crowd of 3,556 screaming fans wearing blue, white and gold. Many had painted faces and creative posters cheering on their team and trying to attract the television cameras.
Although, the lack of a school nickname or mascot was cause for ridicule on the QU fans, who largely outnumbered the Blue Devils, they held bright gold t-shirts with “Quinnipiac” written across the front cheering on the former Braves.
Quinnipiac was led by senior co-captains, Grasso and Bill Romano, who were described by head coach Joe DeSantis as “the heart and soul” of the team at the beginning of the season.
Grasso and Romano, who both joined the list of Quinnipiac basketball players to score over 1,000 career points this season, were two of the starters in the game against Central.
They were joined for the tip off by junior Jeremy Bishop, sophomore Kason Mims and freshman Rob Monroe.
Romano had 16 points in the game and Grasso hit four-for-four three point shots. Bishop, the nations leading rebounder, scored 14 points and pulled down 12 boards. The NEC Rookie of the Year, Monroe scored 17 points in the game to close out his first season.
The NEC Tournament Finals were shown on ESPN2, making it the ninth game, for Quinnipiac, to be broadcast on television this season.
“People all over the country saw us on national television and that does a lot for recruiting and publicity,” said Errico.