‘Winning comes with a sacrifice’: Quinnipiac must move past recent struggles heading into major conference matchups


Jack Spiegel

In his sixth year at the helm, Quinnipiac men’s basketball head coach Baker Dunleavy speaks to the media after a loss to Siena on Dec. 10.

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

As the calendar flipped to 2023, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team seemed to flip a switch from its previous few games.

On Sunday, the Bobcats grabbed their first conference win of the season, toppling the Manhattan Jaspers 84-65. Signs of improved three-point shooting and tough defense down the stretch were a positive look for the team as it seeks to rebound from a rocky start to conference play.

“The takeaway is what causes us to play at our best,” Dunleavy said on Sunday. “We were really locked in defensively and we were tough. Coaches always say it … you tend to make more shots when you’re hungry.”

This comes after the Bobcats dropped three in a row, their longest losing streak of the year. Losses to Saint Peter’s, Penn State and Siena did not bode well for the team projected to finish fourth in the conference preseason standings.

“We have to be a lot better with our consistency level and our game plan and our defense,” Dunleavy said after the Siena loss on Dec. 30.


The team started off the campaign on a historic tear, led by graduate student guard Matt Balanc, graduate student forward Ike Nweke and junior forward Paul Otieno. Once the fatigue of the season began to wear on that trio, the Bobcats started to slip up.

However, in a recent stretch where those players have stepped back, others have taken upon a bigger role. Graduate student guard Tyrese Williams, who recently recorded his 1,000th career point against Siena, and junior guard Luis Kortright have taken the games into their own hands as of late. 

Kortright made national news as his monster slam against the Saints was named No. 3 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays on Dec. 31, just one of many of the highlights that Kortright has made in his third season.

“I’ve seen him do that every day in practice,” Balanc said on Dec. 10. “I think his mindset … it’s starting to show in his game.”

Another player that has begun to improve has been graduate student guard Savion Lewis, who is one of the best pure passers the Bobcats have. 

“So proud of him,” Dunleavy said after the Manhattan game on Jan. 1. “It’s emotional for me to even talk about it. He tore his Achilles in this building last year in December and he’s worked so hard to get back.”

Lewis, who missed the back end of his senior season with that injury, has since come back firing. The Dix Hills, native, currently ranks tied for seventh in the MAAC in assists per game (3.3) and has been a solid contributor off the bench for the Bobcats. 


With the season now flipping to the latter stages, teams may focus on their offseason recruiting after the conference tournament. However, Quinnipiac has gotten an early jump on finding the next class of Bobcats. 

Back on Dec. 17, assistant coach Tahar Sutton took a trip to the Diane Mosco Classic for some early high school and prep scouting. The Bobcats have been a constant in the recruiting game, already showing interest in multiple high school players. 

Regardless of what he is asked to do for the program, in his first season on Dunleavy’s staff, Sutton has already begun to carve out his role in his first year on Dunleavy’s staff. 

“I am not used to losing,” Sutton said on Dec. 10. “I’m just helping on winning, at all costs. I want these guys to understand that winning comes with a sacrifice.”

That sacrifice may mean that some players get a bigger role one night and less so the next – something that doesn’t bother the players in Quinnipiac’s locker room.

“Seeing my teammates go out there certain nights, seeing myself go off as well, it’s something you get excited for,” Balanc said on Dec. 10. “Even if you have a bad game, you can go do other little things and knowing your teammates will pick up the slack that you’re not bringing that day.”

Regardless of Quinnipiac’s minor blip, Sutton has high hopes for this program as a whole. 

“I think this is a place where basketball is growing,” Sutton said on Dec. 10. “It hasn’t been a hotbed, but I think the area is great, I think the culture is great, we have a great arena.”


The Bobcats now have a tough stretch of games on their schedule, facing Rider on Jan. 6, and MAAC favorite Iona on Jan. 8. Both those games will be giant tests for Quinnipiac, who currently sits at 1-3 in conference play. 

Does this program have what it takes to pull off the upset against Iona head coach Rick Pitino and the Gaels?

First, the team needs to start improving on their free throws. A topic of discussion every game, the Bobcats rank 480th out of 575 collegiate basketball teams in all of the NCAA in free throw percentage at an abysmal .628% clip. Once the team is able to get those easy points from the stripe, the final scores will certainly be a lot closer than they have recently been. 

The team also needs to rely more on their two big men – Otieno and Nweke. Both transfers are sixth (6.9) and eighth (6.6) in the conference in rebounding, respectively. With more of a focus on the paint game as a complement to the long range shooting, Quinnipiac is able to find a better balance of offense heading into the winter months. 

With a tough stretch of games looming, one may worry about how the team will approach the next few matchups. Regardless of the string of losses that resulted in a minor slide in the rankings, the Bobcats are looking to bring that defensive prowess from the Manhattan victory into the home stretch and into the conference tournament in Atlantic City.