Another defensive masterclass propels Quinnipiac to 58-51 win over Mount St. Mary’s


Peyton McKenzie

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team allowed 51 points for the second-straight game, winning its fifth MAAC game in a row in the process.

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team, which came off a shutdown victory against MAAC-favorite Iona on Jan. 8, moved to 14-5 on the year with a 58-51 win over Mount St. Mary’s Sunday.

The start was an inauspicious one, as defense reigned supreme early and often. At the first media timeout, only two buckets had been scored for each team. The Mount’s redshirt freshman forward Dola Adebayo was the star at the first media stoppage, having two huge blocks inside the paint, electrifying the home crowd.

Coming into the matchup as the MAAC’s second-highest scoring team, the Bobcats struggled early. Halfway through the first half, the visitors were shooting a little over 30% from the field and were scoreless from the charity stripe. 

The Mount was already handed a big loss prior to tip-off as senior guard Jalen Benjamin, the team’s leading scorer, was ruled out. The lack of Benjamin, who was missing his third game of the season, was evident as Mount St. Mary’s changed its offensive style to play more physically inside the paint. 

Despite the Mount’s best efforts to play bigger, it was Quinnipiac junior forward Paul Otieno who thwarted those plans. The Kenya native and JUCO transfer recorded 10 points and six rebounds in the winning effort. 

Because of the injuries that plagued the Mount, it had to rely heavily on junior guard Dakota Leffew (18 points) and sophomore forward Jedy Cordilia (11 points). Both players controlled the majority of Mount St. Mary’s possessions and the entire offense flowed through them. Cordilia, a Netherlands native, recorded his first career double-double after tacking on 11 rebounds to his total. 

“I thought Jedy did a really nice job of finishing around the basket, made some of those 15-footers,” Mount St. Mary’s head coach Dan Engelstad said on the ESPN+ broadcast. “Jedy’s talented and he’s going to keep working and getting better.”

The first half ended with some hectic plays on each side. Dunks from both Leffew and Quinnipiac junior guard Luis Kortright, along with a number of missed three-point shots, allowed the hosts to end the half with a slim 24-23 lead.

Something must have clicked in both locker rooms, as 19 combined points were scored in the first five minutes of the second half, including three buckets made from beyond the arc. After the Mount extended its lead to a game-high six points, Cordilia registered his fourth foul, eventually fouling out, and was forced to sit, something the Bobcats took advantage of. 

With just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Quinnipiac started to hit its stride from three, as redshirt senior Matt Balanc hit two long-range shots, leading the Bobcats on an 8-0 run. Despite another poor free throw shooting performance (12-24 from the stripe), they made up for it with some clutch buckets late in the game from junior guard Dezi Jones (12 points, five assists).

Jones, who is the Bobcats’ primary ball handler, dropped nine points in the game’s final six minutes, ultimately sealing the game shut with a beautiful pass to Otieno down low to increase the lead.

The 51 points given up by Quinnipiac is tied for its second-lowest allowed all season, finishing behind the 44 points allowed against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 25, and equaling the 51 given up to the Gaels in the match prior. The defense from head coach Baker Dunleavy’s squad has gotten drastically better throughout the winter months, something that will come in handy against some strong offensive teams in the future. 

Mount St. Mary’s, who is in its first season in the MAAC, currently sits ninth in the conference standings at 6-11 overall and 2-4 in the MAAC. On the flip side, Quinnipiac improves to 5-3 in conference play as it looks to continue its strong start to the 2023 calendar year. 

The Bobcats will now stay in Hamden for four of their next five matches with a Jan. 22, date with Canisius next on the docket. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. with the Quinnipiac basketball alumni celebration taking place after the game.