Quinnipiac drops third straight game in 69-59 loss to Saint Peter’s

Even in a losing effort, Matt Balanc impresses in the MAAC opener

Ethan Hurwitz, associate sports editor

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team put up a good fight against Saint Peter’s Peacocks Friday night, but ultimately fell 69-59. The loss puts the Bobcats at 3-4 on the season (0-1 in MAAC play) and now in the midst of a three-game skid. 

The beginning of the game was one to forget for the Bobcats, immediately trailing 11-0 in the first four minutes. At the first media timeout, the Peacocks were up 14-4, and Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy was visibly upset on the sideline. 

“Disappointing result for us tonight,” Dunleavy said. “We played a really good defensive team, and we are just not ourselves. A lot of things we have to fix … we just have to play more consistent.”

Three starters for Saint Peter’s reached double digits in points, including junior forward Fousseyni Drame, junior guard Doug Edert and senior forward KC Ndefo. It used a good open style of offense to spread the Bobcats defense out and have their forwards use this height to score in the paint.

Quinnipiac relied heavily on the pick-and-roll at the top of the key early and often, but it was consistently snuffed out by the Saint Peter’s defense, mainly Drame and junior guard Daryl Banks III. This limited the amount of times the Bobcats were able to use their size to generate points down low in the paint. 

As the halfway mark of the first half came and went, the Bobcats slowly picked up the pace on offense, getting a key bucket from graduate forward Kevin Marfo and five points from redshirt junior guard Matt Balanc, including the team’s only two free throws of the first half. 

Balanc entered today as a top contender for the MAAC’s Sixth Man of the Year and continued his impressive season tonight. The guard tallied a team-leading 20 points as well as six rebounds in 30 minutes of play. 

Balanc discussed how he improved during the offseason and how it can help spark his team moving forward. 

“Put in the hours in the gym,” Balanc said. “A lot of times we get punched in the face first, so we have to be the ones to do that.” 

With just under two minutes left in the first half, Ndefo went airborne to snag a Drame pass and slammed it home, sending the Saint Peter’s bench into a frenzy and pushing their lead to nine. Just 10 seconds later, graduate forward Jacob Rigoni responded with a deep-corner 3. 

The first half closed with some good interior defense by Marfo, but Edert responded with a 3-pointer following a  turnover. The horn sounded and the Peacocks went into halftime leading 34-29. 

Edert converted a three-point play to start the second half and then immediately forced a missed shot on the defensive side of the ball. His unmatched speed resulted in constantly blowing past the much bigger Marfo and Rigoni.  

The Bobcats clawed their way back into the game, scoring five straight, highlighted by a Balanc 3-point play. In the end, the poor 3-point shooting of the Bobcats came back to bite them, hitting only 26.7% of their shots from beyond the arch. For context, the Peacocks’ trio of Drame, Ndefo and Banks III combined had the same amount of 3-pointers made as the Bobcats for the entire game. 

Marfo finishes with  double-double and career-high in rebounds (20) (Photo from Connor Lawless)

Marfo, the country’s rebound leader in 2019, tacked 20 boards onto his 13 points, giving him his fourth double-double of the campaign. The 20 rebounds were a career-high for Marfo, who returned to Hamden from Texas A&M for his sixth collegiate season. 

Dunleavy praised his starting center and how his strength helped Quinnipiac on both sides of the court. 

“He’s a physical force … obviously 20 rebounds against a good rebounding team shows his ability,” Dunleavy said. “We want those things to produce wins … we need that from him.”

In the final five minutes, Quinnipiac caught Saint Peter’s on its heels, stuffing the Peacocks on six straight possessions. This helped open up the offense to make it a two-point game with only three minutes remaining. Although at the start was sluggish, the effort remained high from the entire Bobcats team, but after Banks III snapped Quinnipiac’s 9-0 run with his third 3-pointer of the game, the night was all but over. 

Quinnipiac will travel to Manhattan Dec. 8, for its second MAAC battle of the season. The game tips off at 2 p.m. as the Bobcats look to climb back to .500.