Men’s basketball knocks off Wagner

Ben Dias

Balance and great team free-throw shooting was the key in Saturday afternoon’s contest for the Quinnipiac Bobcats against Northeast Conference Wagner College.

Five Bobcats scored in double-figures, led by Ike Azotam’s 15 points and 36-of-44 from the foul line, earning Quinnipiac a 74-69 victory at the Spiro Sports Center in New York, N.Y. It was the Bobcats third victory in the last four games. The Bobcats improved to 13-16 in the all-time series and are 4-4 over the last four seasons. Quinnipiac also improved to 3-1 in its last four trips to Wagner.

Azotam recorded six rebounds to go along with his 15 points, which featured a 7-for-8 showing from the free throw line. Ousmane Drame collected his second consecutive double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Zaid Hearst added 12 points, earning double-digits in seven of his last eight games. The Bobcats received 11 points and six rebounds from Evan Conti, and Shaq Shannon chipped in with 10 points, both off the bench. Jamee Jackson had nine points and seven rebounds.

Quinnipiac (9-13, 5-5 NEC) jumped out to an early 15 point lead at the strength of an 18-3 run through the first eight minutes of play. Azotam and Drame paced the offense with six points each, while the Bobcats defense held Wagner to just one field goal on nine attempts on a Jonathan Williams 3-pointer in the first minute of the game. The Bobcats forced four Seahawk turnovers during the stretch.

The lead would stay to as many as 15 points in the first half on a Shaq Shannon 3-pointer with 1:45 left in the half and the Bobcats would never let Wagner get within 10 points, limiting Wagner to just 7-of-28 field goals. It was Quinnipiac’s best defensive output since the first 20 minutes of the Paradise Jam against Uconn back in November. The Huskies were held to just 24 percent shooting. Quinnipiac held a 31-19 lead at halftime.

Latif Rivers led Wagner with 29 points, on 10-of-16 shooting including 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. Kenneth Ortiz added 19 points and nine rebounds, while Williams added 11 points for the Seahawks.

Wagner (12-9, 6-4 NEC) cut the deficit to nine points with 16:44 left on a running layup by Ortiz. However, Drame extended the lead to double-digits on a layup on the following possession. Quinnipiac would extend the lead to as many as 17 points with 11:14 left on a Jackson layup. Quinnipiac sustained its 10-point margin for much of the second half, connected on their free-throws, making 29-of-36 in the second half alone, to prevent Wagner from making a run. Wagner cut the deficit to 10 with just over three minutes in regulation, but it was too little to late.

The Seahawks could not keep up on the boards, as Quinnipiac retained the No. 1 spot in rebounding in the NEC with a 41-31 edge on the glass. The Bobcats also outscored Wagner 30-20 in points in the paint. The Seahawks went 7-of-15 from downtown, compared to 2-of-8 from the visiting Bobcats. Each team hauled in 11 offensive rebounds.

The Bobcats hit the court for another NEC matchup against Monmouth University on Thursday, February 7. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the TD Bank Sports Center.