Quinnipiac collapses in second half, falls to Iona on Sunday


Daniel Passapera

Quinnipiac men’s basketball spits the season series with Iona following today’s loss and a blowout victory over the Gaels on Jan. 8.

Zack Hochberg, Staff Writer

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team led consistently throughout, but fell to Iona 78-72 Sunday afternoon after blowing a 17-point halftime lead, snapping its six-game win streak that spanned the entire month of January. 

Powered by eight points from redshirt senior guard Matt Balanc, the Bobcats got off to a scorching hot 17-2 start in the first five minutes.

However, the dominant opening minutes weren’t just due to great offense – Quinnipiac’s defense was locked in as well. The Bobcats were able to force Iona into contested shots around the rim and hard closeouts behind the arc, limiting the Gaels to 1-11 from the field and 0-4 from three. 

Balanc continued to get to the rim at ease, as a tough layup pushed the Quinnipiac lead to 21-6, its largest of the game at that point. 

Quinnipiac was simply outplaying Iona in the first half. The Bobcats out hustled the Gaels to almost every 50-50 ball and the Gaels looked exhausted. This maybe due to the fact that Iona played the MAAC’s top-seeded Siena Saints less than 48 hours ago, while Quinnipiac had a week off. 

With their shots not falling, the hosts attempted to claw back into the game on the defensive end. The Gaels held the Bobcats scoreless for several minutes, but were only able to make up two points with their offensive woes. 

Quinnipiac moved the ball well in the first half, picking up six assists on 15 made shots, aiding the team to a 45.5% shooting performance from the field.

Junior guard Dezi Jones capped off one of the Bobcats’ best halves of the season with a difficult step-back three, sending Quinnipiac to the locker room with a 45-28 lead.

Iona came out of the half in a full-court press, forcing four Quinnipiac turnovers in the first minute, which ignited a 6-0 run and forced Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy to call a timeout. 

The Gaels defense continued to stifle the Bobcats, while on the other end, their  offensive woes from the first were nowhere to be seen. The scoring run soon extended to 13-3, with the visitors’ lead now inside double digits for the first time since midway through the first half. 

The Bobcats shot just 2-13 from the field for the first 10 minutes of the second, allowing the Gaels to storm back from the 17-point halftime deficit and eventually take the lead.

“That second half we started pressing more,” Iona head coach Rick Pitino said. “But, it was a gutsy performance. We were down 17 at half. Possession by possession we won this game.”

Sophomore guard Anton Brookshire led the Gaels’ scoring effort, notching seven-straight points for Iona. On the other hand, Jones continued to energize the Bobcats’ offensive attack, hitting a much-needed three from the wing following the Gaels’ lead ballooning up to nine. 

Quinnipiac was able to cut that deficit to three, thanks to another layup from Jones. He set a season-high in points, minutes, field goal attempts, field goals made, three-point attempts and three-point shots made in the game.. 

The Bobcats got to the rim at will in the tight game, but were unable to finish, either missing in the paint or at the charity stripe.  Quinnipiac missed 12 free throws, eight of which came in the second half.

Jones fouled out trying to extend the game, exiting with 24 points on 7-15 shooting to go along with six rebounds and two assists. 

Junior guard Luis Kortright cut the deficit to six with 24 seconds remaining, but it wasn’t enough as the Gaels were able to finish off the Bobcats for a 78-72 victory.

The loss drops Quinnipiac to 6-4 in the MAAC, snapping a six-game winning streak after the team surged following an 0-3 start to conference play. 

The Bobcats return to action on Jan. 31, when they host Marist at 7 p.m., part of a tough stretch of four games in seven days, including games against Fairfield and Mount St. Mary’s, all of which will be played at M&T Bank Arena.