Quinnipiac men’s basketball tops Siena 67-58, wins first MAAC Tournament game in four years

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Peter Dewey

[media-credit id=2158 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team accomplished something that had not been done since the 2013-14 season, winning its first round matchup of the 2018 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament.

Quinnipiac kept its season alive with a 67-58 victory over No. 10 seeded Siena on Thursday night at the Times Union Center in Albany.

“This was a big step forward for us,” Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “Anybody who watches our team obviously knows we’ve been in a lot of nail-biters and just to be able to close one out was great.”

Quinnipiac jumped out to a 21-5 lead, which included hitting its first eight shot attempts. The Bobcats led by as many as 24 in this one and went into the halftime break up 40-16.

“I was excited with the aggressiveness that we opened with, really on both sides of the ball,” Dunleavy said. “I felt like we were really aided offensively by the way we defended early.”

A big part of Quinnipiac’s defense was shutting down Siena’s Evan Fisher, who led the Saints in scoring against Bobcats in both of the previous two meetings this season. The Bobcats collectively held Fisher to just six points on 3-of-13 shooting, including an 0-for-2 night beyond the arc.

“[Fisher’s] done a great job both times we’ve played him,” Dunleavy said. “We really keyed in on him, especially from three, not letting him get a lot of clean looks. I thought we did a really good job of that, we were pretty locked in.”

On the offensive end it was the freshman tandem of guard Rich Kelly and forward Jacob Rigoni that really go things going for the Bobcats. Rigoni, who finished with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting (5-of-8 from 3-point range), also matched his career-high with eight rebounds.

[media-credit id=2158 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]“It was just another opportunity to come out and play today and my teammates have great confidence in me,” Rigoni said. “I feel like we put in the work all year and there’s no reason to not be confident, it’s just another opportunity to keep getting better.”

Kelly added 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting as well as hit three 3-pointers in the win. While they are technically still freshman, Dunleavy expected a performance like this out of his two youngest players.

“I’ve thrown [Kelly and Rigoni] to the fire, it’s just kind of the circumstances we’ve been put in as a program and they’ve run with it,” Dunleavy said.

Another Bobcat who was key in building the lead was senior guard Cam Young, who scored all 14 of his points in the first half.  Young finished with 11 rebounds as well to give him a double-double, his sixth on the year.

Even with the win, Young isn’t ready for his career at Quinnipiac to come to a close.

“We’re just taking it game-by-game,” Young said. “We know that every game could be our last game so we’re going to come out and play as hard as we can.”

Quinnipiac did struggle late in the game, going without a field goal for the last 7:53 and turning the ball over 18 times throughout the night, but it was able to weather a late second half run by Siena.

“We knew coming out of halftime [Siena] is not a program that quits,” Dunleavy said. “They do a great job, they keep coming after you and they certainly did that.  [Siena] posed a great second half challenge for us but again just really proud of our guys the way they withstood their run and were able to get it done on the road. For us to get a road win in our last true road game of the season was a big deal to us, we took great pride in that.”

With Siena playing at its home arena, the higher seeded Bobcats did not have a home-court advantage. Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos gave Quinnipiac credit for sticking with it.

“Hats off to Quinnipiac, they played well,” Patsos said. “They handled our rush, we outscored them in the second half, we pressed, we did everything we wanted, but when they needed a bucket they got it.”

Quinnipiac will play No. 2 seeded Canisius in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament on Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Albany. For what it’s worth, Dunleavy thinks his team is excelling at the right time.

“I think for our team being able to say we played one of our best games, right now, at the end of the year, and really all we’ve talked about since we got together as a group in June was ‘let’s find a way to create a chemistry and play our best basketball at the end of the year,’” Dunleavy said. “It’s not always going to be pretty early, and it wasn’t, and we’ve taken our lumps. But I do feel like we’re playing our best basketball right now.”