Men’s basketball falls short, finishes sixth in NEC

Brent Sanchez

Quinnipiac wasted a strong first half and dropped its regular season finale, falling to LIU Brooklyn 96-90 at the Wellness Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Saturday evening. The loss cements the Bobcats (15-15, 11-7 NEC) as the sixth seed in the upcoming Northeast Conference Tournament.

The Bobcats were able to forge some breathing room in the first half, building a nine-point lead heading into the intermission. Zaid Hearst came out firing for Quinnipiac, chipping in 13 points before the break. The Bobcats were able to dominate the boards early on, out-rebounding the Blackbirds (17-13, 12-6 NEC) 22-12 en route to a 43-34 lead.

The second half, however, was a much different story. LIU Brooklyn lit up the scoreboard for 62 after halftime, shooting nearly 70 percent from the floor. They were scorching hot, opening up the half on a 12-2 run to take the lead and never looked back.

Seniors Jamal Olasewere and CJ Garner went to town on the Bobcats defense, pouring in 33 and 30 points, respectively. Quinnipiac kept it close down the stretch and put some pressure on the Blackbirds in the final minutes, with Evan Conti hitting a three to cut the lead to four with just 36 seconds remaining. Nevertheless, Olasewere and Garner were able to ice the game from the line to down the Bobcats.

Despite Dave Johnson’s career-high 24 points, Quinnipiac couldn’t find ways to stop the Blackbirds on the other end. Ousmane Drame also put up nice numbers in the loss, scoring 21 off the bench while pulling down six boards.

Quinnipiac, who had already clinched a playoff berth, could have locked up the two seed after coming into the game in a four-way tie for second place in the conference. Instead, they’ll have to win at least one game on the road if they’re to make a run at their first NCAA Tournament bid in school history.

The Northeast Conference tournament opens up on Wednesday, when the Bobcats travel to face the third seed at 7 p.m.