Offense lifts men’s basketball past Niagara

Offense lifts men's basketball past Niagara

Justin Cait

Coming off a five-game losing streak, Quinnipiac men’s basketball may have regained its confidence as the Bobcats beat Niagara 82-68 at the TD Bank Sports Center on Saturday afternoon.

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“The sense of relief and excitement in our locker room is something we really needed,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “It’s great to see, and feel, and to be a part of.”

Gio McLean led the way with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists for the Bobcats. Danny Harris contributed with 18 points of his own (six 3-point field goals), while Chaise Daniels had 13 points and five rebounds.

The game commenced with non-stop, end-to-end action resulting in each of Quinnipiac’s starters scoring at least one basket in the first five minutes of play.

Midway through the first half senior guard James Ford Jr. led Quinnipiac offensively with five points in just nine minutes, while sophomore guard Ayron Hutton kept the Purple Eagles’ leading scorer Matt Scott to just 1-5 shooting from the field.

Moore praised Hutton for his defensive efforts, noting that Hutton has “played his best man to man defense on [Matt] Scott since he’s been here.”

Although they were trailing 30-26 late in the first half, an unexpected 12-0 run propelled the Bobcats to a 38-30 lead at the end of the half. Of the 12 points recorded in that run, senior guard McLean scored 4 points while Hutton dished out 2 assists.

“When the shots go in like that you don’t feel like you have an anvil on your back,” Moore added. “We didn’t have that today because they went in, so you hope you get confidence from that.”

Despite Niagara’s Cameron Fowler drawing contact on an early layup in the opening seconds of play, Quinnipiac stormed back and hit their stride in the second half.

Sophomore forward Daniels tallied five points while McLean and junior guard Harris drained three consecutive three-pointers to cap off an early 16-4 run.

“It was about time we got some threes to go down,” Harris said. “That’s why they brought me here, to make threes and make plays. I try to do my job night in and night out and luckily the ball went in for us.”

Subsequent to the Bobcats’ marvelous run, Niagara answered with a run of their own; going 13-0 midway through the second half to cut Quinnipiac’s lead to 56-52.

Luckily for the Bobcats, three-pointers kept falling and momentum continued to swing in their favor.

“A lot of teams can fold and just pack it up and say we give in,” Daniels said. “But we keep fighting and we believe in each other and just got to stick with it.”

The Bobcats were able to channel their winning ways and held off Niagara en route to an 82-68 victory, their first since Jan. 4.

“Offensively, life is a whole lot easier when the ball goes in with some frequency and we made our threes,” Moore said. “12 for 17 from three was just huge and life is different when you get the chance to play ahead.”

Although the Bobcats’ shooting was absolutely spectacular in this one, Moore did not downplay the other great offensive aspects Quinnipiac put on display.

“The way they shared the ball with 19 assists and just five turnovers is a stat that we’re very, very happy with.”

Stats have not been kind to Quinnipiac as of late and a 2-6 record in the month of January, does not help their case. However, Harris felt positively about the direction of the team.

“It’s not all about playing great in the months of January and February,” Harris said. “It’s about playing great in March and that’s what we’re striving for.”

Next up, the Bobcats look to extend their winning streak when take on Fairfield University at Webster Bank Arena on Feb.1.

“There are a lot of positives we can take away from this,” Moore said. “And at least a little more confidence as we go into Fairfield on Monday.”