Men’s basketball handles Niagara in wire-to-wire win

Men%27s+basketball+handles+Niagara+in+wire-to-wire+win

Logan Reardon

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team defeated Niagara by a score of 89-81 in Saturday night’s MAAC contest at Lender Court.

[media-credit id=2158 align=”alignright” width=”300″]IMG_4121[/media-credit]

The Bobcats improved to 9-14, 6-7 in the MAAC, and ended a three-game losing streak with the win. With the loss, the Purple Eagles fall to 8-17 on the year, 5-9 in the MAAC.

Chaise Daniels led Quinnipiac with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Freshmen Peter Kiss had a great all-around game with 23 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, while Mikey Dixon added 18 points.

Throughout much of the game, there was little doubt of a Bobcat victory. Quinnipiac jumped out to a 14-2 lead at the first media timeout, and Daniels had eight of those points. The Bobcats emphasized feeding the post early and often that was evident through Daniels’ production all night.

“My teammates were just looking for me,” Daniels said. “They told me to be aggressive and I felt good early.”

As the first half continued, Quinnipiac’s lead only grew larger. The Bobcats forced Niagara to call a timeout with 7:45 left in the first half when the lead ballooned to 36-13.

At halftime, Quinnipiac’s lead stood at 48-26. Daniels had 14 in the first half, while Kiss and Dixon threw in 16 and 12, respectively.

The Bobcats held Niagara leading scorer Matt Scott scoreless through much of the first half of the game until he hit a free throw with 7:15 remaining. Scott still finished the game with 20 points, but his slow start hindered the Purple Eagles early efforts.

Niagara junior guard Kahlil Dukes carried the Purple Eagles throughout much of the game, finishing with a game-high 29 points and four assists.

“Dukes was awesome in the second half,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “His effort willed them tonight.”

In the second half, Niagara slowed chipped away at the big lead. Midway through the second half, with 9:58 to play, the Bobcat lead was trimmed to 70-57.

“We won that game in the first half,” Moore said. “We played so well in the first half, and we reaped the benefits of how well that half went. It wasn’t exactly how we wanted the second half to go.”

Niagara put even more of a scare into the Bobcats later in the half, cutting the lead to just 81-75 with 2:25 to play. That was as close as the Purple Eagles could come, though.

Despite the wire-to-wire victory, Moore knows that his Bobcats were lucky to come away with the win.

“We had the feeling that if it went five more minutes, the score might have gone the other way,” Moore said. “I just wish we could have sustained the lead better.”

This was Quinnipiac’s first game without senior big man, key rebounder and shot blocker, Donovan Smith, who exited with a foot injury in Tuesday’s 84-75 home loss to Siena.

“We all have to pick it up without Donovan (Smith),” Daniels said. “He was a big key to our team so we all just have to adjust without him.”

Ja’Qwan Jones, whose mother recently passed away and has been away from the team, returned tonight and is now expected to be a key contributor after Smith’s injury.

“At first there were some butterflies,” Jones said. “But, once I got in rhythm I was all good and ready to go.”

Going forward, Quinnipiac will travel to face Fairfield on Monday night. Moore is confident in his team looking ahead.

“I’m really optimistic,” Moore said.” Coaching this year is a lot easier because I feel like I actually have answers now.”