Benson embraces roll as scorer

Zach Smart

Last season, Craig Benson was a solid player for the Quinnipiac University men’s basketball team. He averaged 7.9 ppg while shooting .374 from behind the arc, and had breakout games in pivotal victories over Monmouth, Dartmouth and LIU.

This year as a junior, Benson, a Hamden native, was plunged into a much more prominent role. The former Hamden High star has emerged as the Bobcats’ second leading scorer, averaging 13.6 ppg while shooting .421 from the field and .367 from three-point territory.

Benson’s sweet touch from the perimeter has proven to be big for the Bobcats’ offense this season, as he has been a strong complement to senior standout Rob Monroe in the backcourt.

Monroe, in the last year of his storied career, is a candidate for the prestigious Bob Cousy Award.

“I’m just more confident this year,” Benson said after the Bobcats’ 88-83 overtime victory against Sacred Heart on Feb. 3. “I knew that this season I’d have to step up and help Rob with the scoring a little bit.”

Coming into his own this season, Benson has also helped cushion the loss of two of the school’s top players, Rashaun Banjo, currently playing overseas, and Kason Mims. Both players were lost to graduation last May.

Both Benson and Monroe have been the spark plugs for a potent Quinnipiac offense, which at week’s end led the NEC in both points per game and three-point field goals made. Easily the sharpest guard tandem in the NEC, Benson and Monroe were effective enough together that they were dubbed “Batman and Robin” by the voices of Quinnipiac basketball, AM 1220 WQUN announcers Bill Schweizer and Bill Mecca.

Earlier this season when the team was failing to maintain a balanced scoring attack, the Bobcats needed a player to step up and take on a bulk of the offense.

Benson did not flinch.

He averaged 20.8 points over a five game stretch in which the Bobcats went 4-1, including impressive wins over Cornell and Robert Morris. Against RMU, Benson scorched the nets nailing seven treys on the evening, including the game winning trifecta as time expired.

“That was a real confidence builder,” Benson said. “Anytime you hit the game winning shot it makes you feel good, and that just boosted me from here on in.”

Benson has been nagged by a leg injury which sidelined him for two games last week.

Having clearly made the transition from role player to key scorer, Benson is more than confident about leading the team next season when he will take on an even bigger role.

“I’m going to have to [be a leader],” Benson said. “I feel that it’s my team next year, everybody’s going to have to just follow me.”