Men’s basketball wins season-opener

Dan Dolph

As Jamee Jackson put it post-game, it was his first last game of his college career, he was hyped up and he wasn’t going to lose the game.

Ike Azotam had 17 points and nine rebounds, Garvey Young contributed 15 points and Jamee Jackson provided the emotional plays to give the Bobcats a 65-61 victory in their first game of the season against non-conference opponent Hartford University.

Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore and the Bobcats (1-0) found themselves in unfamiliar territory as they entered halftime trailing Hartford (0-1) by a score of 32-29. In Tom Moore’s five years as the coach of the Bobcats he has never lost a game to Hartford, after Saturday’s game, he boasts a perfect 5-0 record.

“I thought we played more like ourselves in the second half,” Moore said. “Every game has a different identity and you can’t ever plan what path the game is going to take. The foul trouble in the first half threw all of us on our sideline for a loop. But I’m proud of some of the minutes we got from everyone on the bench.”

To start the game the Bobcats relied on the veteran talent in their frontcourt to carry the load for them offensively. They opened by feeding the ball to their center Azotam and power-forward Jamee Jackson.

Azotam produced early on as he made four of his first six shots — good for nine of the Bobcats 12 points.

However, three early fouls for Jackson and two for Azotam took them out of the game for most of the final 10 minutes of the first half. Jackson’ second foul was a technical, appraised to him for his part in a conversation with a Hartford player. His third came just minutes later with 9:34 still to play in the first half. Azotam also found himself with two fouls just halfway through the first stanza.

Moore switched up his game plan without his frontcourt tandem, opting for a smaller lineup. He often had Garvey Young, his 6-foot 5-inch, 196 pound shooting guard playing in the paint alongside center Ousmane Drame with a rotating backcourt of Zaid Hearst, Dave Johnson, Kendrick Ray and Evan Conti.

They were able to keep the game in reach with two starters relegated to the bench. Even with Tom Moore’s halftime adjustments Quinnipiac was not able to pull away. With 8:51 remaining in the game Hartford was on top by five, 49-44.

It would be the re-emergence of Jackson and Azotam in the second half that allowed the Bobcats to take control when the game was winding down. The two combined to score 11 of the teams final 21 points, both with a knack for making big plays on crucial situations.

“In the first half I was down on myself,” said Jackson when asked about his play down the stretch. “Because of the fouls I wasn’t able to play. That second half I said it’s still early, talking to myself, hyping myself up. Hard work pays off, I just got some lucky plays and ran with it.”

An Azatom layup with 5:19 to go would put the Bobcats up by two, it was the first lead for the Bobcats since the 3:47 mark of the first half. On the ensuing Hawks possession Jackson blocked a shot near the three-point line and raced down court to put in a contested layup at the rim to make it a four-point game. Quinnipiac took all the momentum and wouldn’t relinquish the lead the rest of the way.

“If this was a beauty pageant we wouldn’t have won,” Moore said. “It played out as a toughness contest and we had some toughness down the stretch.”

With 44 points scored inside the paint, it was the Bobcat frontcourt that gave the Bobcats the win. They needed all the scoring they could get from that area given that perimeter shots weren’t falling for Tom Moore’s squad. As a team, Quinnipiac shot 44.6 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from the 3-point line. However guards such as Garvey Young, who coach Moore described as a glue guy, came up big down the stretch.

Freshman Kendrick Ray played 23 minutes in what was his first collegiate game. He was on the court for the final minute of play, a time when it was a one possession game.

“We got great perimeter players, they’re all great shooters,” Jackson said. “They’ve got to get their confidence up. We believe in them. Once they start clicking it should be a good run.”