Men’s hoop finally hitting their mark

P.J. Gradowski

Fire. Fire. Shot. Swish. That’s the sound at Burt Kahn Court where the Quinnipiac University men’s basketball team has reeled off three straight wins in impressive fashion, shooting the ball as well as any team in the NCAA.

“We have played well lately,” coach Joe DeSantis said. “We seem to be putting everything together now and offensively we are just doing what we know we can do.”

Last Monday the men hosted Long Island University. Coming off three straight losses, where the average loss was by 17, the men needed a win to stay alive and qualify for the Northeast Conference playoffs.

The men played well but could not seem to distance themselves versus LIU as they trailed at the half, 33-32.

In the second half, the Bobcats seem to finally come together and play like the team that was picked to finish in the top four in the conference. It all started with a steal by junior tri-captain Kason Mims who converted it into a lay-up.

The Bobcats followed that play with an 18-5 run that gave them a lead they never relinquished. They shot 50 percent from the field in the second half as they defeated LIU 80-69.

Mims finished with his usual solid all-around game with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists while holding down All-NEC guard Antawn Dobie to 16 points on 4-of-17 shooting.

“It was important to end that streak,” Coach DeSantis said. “This game started an important four game stretch where we are at home and we needed to get on right track.”

On February 6 the Bobcats played Mt. St. Mary’s led by legendary coach Jim Phelan. Phelan is one of only three NCAA Division I basketball coaches to reach the 800 win plateau. Before the game Quinnipiac honored Phelan with a plaque congratulating him on his achievements.

However, the game belonged to the Bobcats as they shot 51 percent from the field including 60 percent from behind the three-point arc, while also outrebounding the Mount 40-29. The men jumped on the Mountaineers early building an 18-point lead at the half, 41-23.

In the second half the Bobcats seemed to have control of the game until the last three minutes when the Mountaineers shot the lights out from three point land, hitting 7-of-11 threes and closing Quinnipiac’s lead to just three, 85-82 with nine seconds left.

Sophomore guard Rob Monroe hit two clutch free throws, however, and the Bobcats hung on and won 87-82. Monroe finished with nine points and eight assists on the night.

Mims had 25 points and seven rebounds, while junior forward Rashaun Banjo added 24 points. C.J. Vick also had a great game posting his fourth career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“We know we are a good team and we know what we can do,” said Mims. “As a captain I feel I know I need to step up and lead this team.”

The men then went on and beat UMBC last Saturday for their third straight win. The men were on fire from the start as they built a 24-9 lead early and never looked back. The Bobcats shot 67 percent in the first half while connecting on 8-10 threes to take a 48-28 halftime lead.

In the second half Quinnipiac built a 30-point lead as they shot 51 percent and hit five more shots from beyond the arc. All 14 eligible players got in the game as the Bobcats defeated the Retrievers 87-66.

“We played great and I am proud of this team for not giving up at all,” DeSantis said. “We now need to build on this and take even bigger steps.”

Banjo led the Bobcats with 17 points, including three three pointers. Monroe had a career high 11 assists while freshman Adam Tancredi had a career high ten points.

The men now stand at 11-9, 5-6 in the conference. They started the stretch out of the NEC playoff mix, but now stand at seventh in the league.

“We need to keep getting better,” DeSantis said. “We still need to work on some things, but there is still a lot of basketball to be played.”

The Bobcats return to action on the road to play Sacred Heart on the Feb. 15 and LIU on the Feb. 17.