Quinnipiac has long had a rivalry with the University of Connecticut thanks to the two school’s geographic location. UConn has long been a basketball force in New England, and with the recent collapse of the NBA’s Boston Celtics, is arguably the best basketball team the Northeast has to offer.
Each year since Quinnipiac joined the ranks of Division-I athletics in the late 1990s, the two schools have met on the hardwood either on the UConn campus in Storrs or at their alternate home, the Hartford Civic Center in the state’s capital.
The game always creates buzz for Quinnipiac; its alumni, students, administration and supporters, as it is a game against a national powerhouse. It is a way to measure how the Quinnipiac basketball program is fairing in its pursuit of being a top tier team.
UConn see’s the game as a tone up of sorts. Playing against a weaker team will allow them to work out kinks in their armor for when they head into the Big East schedule, and move onto the NCAA Tournament. They play the game to give a smaller in-state school a thrill; just as they play fellow NEC schools Central Connecticut State and Sacred Heart. By putting these types of schools on their schedule, UConn essentially guarantees three wins a season.
A capacity crowd of over 16,000 packed the Civic Center on Jan. 30 to see the two in-state schools play. Quinnipiac had a small cheering section behind the Bobcat bench that was drowned out by the jeers and taunts of the masses there to see their blue and red play with Quinnipiac. It was like playing against your eight-year-old brother in a game of one-on-one in the driveway.
Quinnipiac came out strong, scoring eight unanswered points to go up 8-2 in the first few minutes. UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun called a quick time out but he knew his team was not in trouble. UConn has a swagger to them. A “you can’t beat us” moxie that you can only find in a champion.
No one expected Quinnipiac to beat UConn. When the score was 8-2, it seemed maybe we had a chance; UConn came out flat. But when you walk into the practice facility every day and see the John Wooden National Championship trophy, coming out flat is not an option. The hopes of an upset were quickly dashed.
Maybe Calhoun threatened to make them run the next day at practice, or told them he would drop them from Basket Weaving 101 if they lost, but the Huskies came out strong after the time out. When UConn broke a 13-13 tie with a free throw with 12:00 to go in the first half, it was the closest Quinnipiac would be the rest of the game.
56-31. That was the score at the half. 46-18, that was the score after the 13-13 tie was broken.
It is not that the Bobcats did not try or did not care, or that Head Coach Joe DeSantis emptied his bench to let the subs get some floor time; it is that UConn is vastly superior to almost every team they play. They are bigger inside, faster on the perimeter and above all, know how to win. When you are bred to win, that is what you do and you do not except losing.
End of story.
The second half started how the first half ended. The second half score was 67-40. That is the score of most college basketball games.
Adding the two half totals together gives UConn a 123-71 win and the fourth highest point total in school history.
It does not give Quinnipiac anything. Yes it may add to a young team’s experience, but is it a good experience?
Just another loss. Just adds to the chip on the team’s respective shoulder about UConn. And just makes the hole the men’s basketball program has to dig out of to reach UConn that much deeper.