Quinnipiac’s four-game winning streak ceases after Niagara achieves revenge in 76-66 win

Toyloy Brown III, Managing Editor

The Bobcats have their four-game win steak snapped in their 76-66 lost to the Purple Eagles, who they faced twice in a row. (Aidan Sheedy)

Quinnipiac entered its second consecutive game against Niagara hoping to do something it hadn’t done since the 2019-20 season: win a fifth consecutive game. 

A win would have tied its longest win streak in the Baker Dunleavy era, but the Bobcats were unable to accomplish that feat today, losing to a hungry Purple Eagles squad that was previously winless in MAAC play.

Niagara (6-7, 1-3 MAAC) exacted its revenge on Quinnipiac (7-5, 2-2 MAAC), defeating the Bobcats 76-66. Last time out, the Purple Eagles fell to the Bobcats in Hamden on New Year’s Eve. 

Junior guard Noah Thomasson led the Purple Eagles with a career-high 21 points. The Butler Community College transfer did not resemble a player who entered the game averaging a little over seven points per game as the majority of his buckets were a high degree of difficulty off-the-dribble.  

Thomasson’s scoring punch was needed as Niagara senior guard Marcus Hammond, who leads the conference in points per game with 17.1, missed the final 16 minutes after he was poked in the eye by graduate student forward Jacob Rigoni. 

Quinnipiac battled in a low-scoring affair in the game’s first 20 minutes, struggling to make its customary passes to cutters due to Niagara’s ball denials. The slimmer passing lanes caused by Niagara defenders’ aggressiveness made scoring more challenging for Quinnipiac who shot 10 of 28 from the field.

This poor shooting first half was drastically different from the previous meetup where the Bobcats scored efficiently on the Purple Eagles, leading by 16 points at halftime. Today, the Bobcats led only 27-23. 

The second half featured a large wave of scoring, primarily on the Purple Eagles’ end. Niagara without its best scorer still drilled 7-12 beyond the arc and shot 58.6% from the field in the half. Niagara’s 53 second-half points were the second-most points it scored in a half this season — it scored 60 points against Division III Buffalo State Dec. 12. The Purple Eagles led as many as 11 points today.

While the Bobcats had moments of strong play, they were never able to pick up enough stops to confidently reclaim control of the game. 

The team’s top performer was sophomore guard Dezi Jones who exploited the Purple Eagles’ defense this afternoon as he did Dec. 31, scoring a career-high 20 points. Today, he set a new career-high with 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting, knifing his way to his spots in the paint and the mid-range.  

Redshirt junior guard Matt Balanc returned to action after missing the Bobcats’ last game due to COVID-19, and his activity helped give some life to the team. He scored 9 of his 14 points in the second half and snagged three offensive rebounds on the day. 

The reigning MAAC Player of the Week graduate student Kevin Marfo gobbled up 12 rebounds and dished five assists to shooters. However, his 3 for 10 shooting and six turnovers exemplified the Purple Eagles’ preparedness for today’s game. 

Quinnipiac’s last hope of a late comeback came with 1:04 left. After two made free throws by Balanc, Quinnipiac trailed 64-70. Bobcats senior guard Tyrese Williams stole the ball and scored at the rim but was whistled for the offensive foul. On the next inbounds, sophomore wing Tymu Chenery got Quinnipiac possession again and saved the ball from going out of bounds. The Adelaide, Australia native Rigoni caught the saved ball but was called for a back-court violation.

Rigoni’s appearance in today’s game made him the new leader in games played in Quinnipiac’s history with 128, surpassing James Johnson (‘12). 

Quinnipiac will face Canisius (4-9, 0-2 MAAC) Jan. 11, who hasn’t played since Dec. 22.