Quinnipiac men’s basketball tops Fairfield

Nick Solari

After a loss in the final 2.5 seconds against Boston University Monday night, many wondered how the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team would bounce back.

Friday night at the TD Bank Sports Center marked the program’s first conference game in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and the Bobcats had nearby foe Fairfield ready to take on the challenge.

Quinnipiac got down nine points early, but responded with resolve.

Four players scored in double figures for the Bobcats, and Quinnipiac used a 17-4 run at the end of the first half to help defeat Fairfield in the program’s first conference game as a member of the MAAC.

“My fear coming into the game was that they would be a lot better than their record, and I was right,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “They really knocked us down early. I’m very proud with the fact that we were able to get up, and manage a six point lead at half.”

Freshman guard Kasim Chandler started the run that propelled Quinnipiac to a halftime lead by sinking both free throw attempts. Then, after a Quinnipiac stop, Chandler hit a transition three from the right elbow to cut the Fairfield lead to two points.

After a media timeout, Chandler continued to set the pace as he pushed the ball up the court and found Ousmane Drame. Drame put it in and was fouled. He completed the 3-point play to give the Bobcats a 35-34 lead with 4:22 left in the first half.

Umar Shannon then scored as the shot clock was winding down, and Drame made four free throws.

“At time outs we were just preaching one stop at a time,” forward Ike Azotam said. You can’t get all of the points back in one play, so we went about it one stop at a time.”

It was a 14-0 run for Quinnipiac over the span of 4:11.

“I like the resolve of our team,” Azotam said. “We were down early, but we fought back hard. We’ve been down early a couple times this year but we’ve fought back.”

Fairfield’s Marcus Gilbert and Quinnipiac’s Zaid Hearst led the charge for their respective teams in the first nine minutes of the game. Gilbert scored 11 of the Stags first 20 points, while Hearst scored 10 of the Bobcats first 14.

Gilbert scored a career-high 31 points, and shot 6-of-10 from 3-point range.

Quinnipiac had four players in double figures. Ousmane Drame had a team-high 22 points, eight rebounds, and six blocks. Ike Azotam had the only double-double for either squad, with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

“They were bigger in the paint tonight,” Moore said. “You could see them in there, you could feel them in there. They fought fatigue, and they’re are hard to take out when they play like they did tonight.”

Zaid Hearst, 20, and Chandler, 14, were the other two Bobcats in double figures.

“It’s definitely nice to get the win,” Hearst said. “That last shot against Boston, we could have folded or dwelled on it but we didn’t. It’s always big, especially in our first game in the MAAC.”

Guard Shaq Shannon had 11 rebounds, 10 coming in the first half.

With the win the Bobcats improve to 5-2 on the year, and are 9-1 in their last 10 home games. The Bobcats are back in action Sunday at Rider, where tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.