Quinnipiac men’s basketball grabs second-straight MAAC win 72-63 at Rider


Peyton McKenzie

Quinnipiac men’s basketball currently sits sixth in the MAAC standings.

Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – In front of a packed road crowd, Quinnipiac men’s basketball was able to secure its second-straight conference win, this one over the Rider Broncs by a score of 72-63. 

Taking home a win at Rider’s Alumni Gymnasium is no easy task for head coach Baker Dunleavy and his Bobcats. The program is 1-8 all-time at the venue, with its only win coming last season when the Bobcats beat the Broncs 77-70 in overtime. 

With Quinnipiac entering the matchup at 1-3 in MAAC play and sitting near the bottom of the conference table, a win was mandatory. 

No matter how mandatory a win was, it did not come easy for the Bobcats. In the first half. Quinnipiac found ample opportunity to score, but was not able to connect on shots at a rate that equated to a lead. The Bobcats shot 39% from the floor in the first frame and 29% from beyond the arc. 

The majority of offensive production for the Bobcats came from graduate student guard Tyrese Williams, who had 10 points in the first half and three 3-pointers. The team’s scoring leader this season, graduate student forward Ike Nweke, had only four points in the first half while finding himself in foul trouble early. 

Before the game, the Bobcats were given a belated Christmas gift from the Broncs. Rider’s leading scorer, senior guard Dwight Murray Jr., was announced as inactive as he recovered from a concussion. 

“You’re going to go into battle,” Dunleavy said. “You prepare for the best players, and you’re hoping he’s okay. You want to play against the best competition, but when they don’t play, you adjust.”

It took the Bobcats a while to adjust, as scorers two and three for the Broncs stepped up, with seniors Allen Powell, a guard and Mervin James, a forward, combining for 25 of Rider’s 36 first-half points. 

Both sides traded leads four times to start the second half, but the Bobcats took the lead for good with 11 minutes left in regulation when a Williams’ three-ball put them up 48-46. What mattered most at that point was hanging on to the lead. 

“We’re just trying to get as many defensive stops as we possibly could, trying to string three, four or five consecutive stops in a row and just break the game open,” Williams said. “Then you’re scoring on the other end. That really breaks a team down.”

Defensively, the Bobcats adjusted to the troubles they had with Powell and James in the first half. The duo was held to only 10 points in the back half, with three coming from Powell in the game’s final seconds. 

“We did a better job of just staying with Powell,” Dunleavy said. “Great shooter, couldn’t let him get loose. Second half, we stayed attached to him. Then with James, I just thought we were a little bit more physical, but those guys are really good players.”

Offensively, the second half was filled with timely shooting from the Bobcats. Two more threes for Williams and one from sophomore guard Alexis Reyes kept the Quinnipiac offense ticking. Along with that, perfect free throw shooting from junior guards Dezi Jones and Luis Kortright down the stretch kept the Bobcats in the lead for good, winning 72-63. 

With four games left before Quinnipiac students return from winter break, this win means a lot for the Bobcats, helping them find team chemistry without any distractions on campus. 

“All we have is each other right now,” Williams said. “We’re making sure that we’re putting the shots up that we need, getting the correct reps, and then working together to make sure that we’re connected on and off the court.”

This victory gives Quinnipiac some momentum before returning home on Sunday, where the team will face off against the first-place Iona Gaels, who are undefeated in MAAC play. 

“We have to really prioritize the next one on the schedule and it never gets easy,” Dunleavy said. “So they’re a fun team to play against because of how well coached they are and how challenging and how hard they play. It gives us a feel for where we are.”

Sitting at 2-3 in the MAAC, this next game means the most for a Bobcats squad that is looking to prove why they were chosen to finish fourth in the conference in the preseason coaches’ poll.