Quinnipiac men’s basketball falls short against Iona in MAAC tournament

Jordan Wolff, Staff Writer

Almost two years have gone by since a Quinnipiac basketball program played in a MAAC tournament game. That drought ended Tuesday night, with the No. 8 Quinnipiac men’s basketball team (9-13 overall, 7-12 MAAC) facing No. 9 Iona (9-5 overall, 6-3 MAAC).

The Bobcats only played one game, however, as they lost 72-48. Nevertheless, Quinnipiac men’s basketball head coach Baker Dunleavy is grateful that his team had an opportunity to play in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“It was really special,” Dunleavy said. “I want to give credit to (MAAC commissioner) Rich Ensor and his whole staff for putting it together, especially in a year like this. In a crazy year, we don’t take it for granted to compete in this, and we’re lucky to be a part of it.”

Quinnipiac men’s basketball fell out of the MAAC tournament at the hands of Iona Tuesday. Morgan Tencza

Quinnipiac came into this contest losing its regular season finale to No. 3 Saint Peter’s 66-64, who avoided COVID-related pauses entirely, whereas Iona hasn’t played since Feb. 20, due to COVID-19 issues. Typically the team with more reps has the advantage, but Iona’s MAAC tournament pedigree factored in. It’s made the NCAA tournament six times since 2012.

The Gaels finished this game shooting 46% from the field and 42% on 3-pointers. However, early in the game, it didn’t seem as if either team would reach that mark.

Iona shot 32% from the field, while going 1-of-3 from beyond the arc in the first half. Quinnipiac was slightly worse, shooting 27% from the field and 25% from three. Another issue that arose was ball security. Both squads combined for 10 turnovers at the midway point of the first half.

Part of that can be chalked up to postseason jitters, as both squads have a lot of players that never played in the MAAC tournament before.

Another aspect is coaching, as sometimes both coaches can really scout the opposition’s gameplan to a tee. During his postgame press conference, 2013 National Champion, former Louisville Head Coach and Iona’s first-year head coach Rick Pitino shared how the MAAC has some of the most unsung coaches in the NCAA.

“The coaches in this league, I’d put them as good as anybody I’ve coached against,” Pitino said. “These guys are very creative and outstanding coaches, and it’s a privilege to be in this league.”

Arguably, the turning point was during a second-half possession, when Dunleavy kept arguing with the officials about Iona pushing off Quinnipiac defenders to make baskets. The normally-calm Dunleavy irked the official enough so he received a technical foul.

From that point on, Iona found its rhythm. That started with Gaels freshman forward Dwayne Koroma. Throughout the season, Koroma’s career high in points had been 10, which he reached the last time the Gaels and Bobcats met on Feb. 17.

Senior forward Jacob Rigoni played the final game of his Quinnipiac career Tuesday. (Morgan Tencza)

Once again, Koroma was able to navigate his way through the paint and matched his career high with 10 points. The Bobcats also had to deal with Iona senior guard and MAAC leading scorer Isaiah Ross.

Ross is the only player in the MAAC to average more than 20 points per game, but was kept quiet in the first half. However, Ross finished with 15 points. Gaels senior guard Asante Gist added 12 points of his own.

The numbers are a big part of this game, but with it being a tournament game, so is the term “last.” For the winning side, they don’t have to think about that until you lose. But, for the losing side, it comes up right away.

For Quinnipiac, this was senior forward Jacob Rigoni’s last game. Rigoni finished his final game with six points and six rebounds. The Australian native also went 2-of-8 on 3-pointers.

Rigoni’s contributions are evident, as he finishes his Quinnipiac career with over 1,000 career points and holds the program record for most 3-pointers made.

“Jake’s a guy who I have a lot of love and respect for,” Dunleavy said. “He’s done incredible things for this program … he’s a special part of this program, and I wish he could’ve gotten a better ending.”

Usually, what’s next is previewing the upcoming matchup or game. But in this instance, it can’t be done. Rigoni is the only starting senior on this team, which means most of Quinnipiac’s 2020-21 roster will be returning next season.

With the experience of Atlantic City under its belt, the 2021-22 squad will aim to return to the MAAC tournament and win its first conference title.