Qunnipiac shines bright, takes down Fairfield 66-51 in rivalry matchup


Casey Wiederhold

Junior guard Luis Kortright earned 12 points on six rebounds and six assists.

Colin Kennedy, Staff Writer

HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team stepped up when the lights were the brightest and took down Fairfield 66-51 Friday night.

For the first time since Feb. 21, 2020, the Bobcats were put on the national stage and they didn’t disappoint. M&T Bank Arena was packed from the jump, an energy that translated to the players.

“To see the Bank like that was exciting,” junior guard Luis Kortright said. “It just made all of us want to play good.”

It wasn’t all Bobcats from the start, however, as the packed arena and stout Fairfield defense caught Quinnipiac off guard to start the first half. In the opening five minutes of the game, the Bobcats could only muster up two points, shooting 1-6 along with four early turnovers.

“I thought we had good composure in that nobody freaked out and panicked,” Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “We were playing probably our worst version of ourselves offensively.”

The Bobcats continued to play sloppy basketball throughout the beginning stages of the first half, falling behind the Stags 16-6. That was until graduate student forward Ike Nweke introduced himself to the Quinnipiac faithful.

Nweke’s play on both sides of the floor flipped a switch for the Bobcats and ignited a furious comeback. Quinnipiac quickly went on an 8-0 run which saw Nweke tally six points and two offensive rebounds.

“We had to set the tone early,” Nweke said. “Not by scoring right away, but just being able to impose ourselves on the glass early on.”

The Bobcats continued to impose their will on the Stags as the first half continued and mounted a 20-3 run that included the half’s only three-pointer, made by graduate student guard Tyrese Williams.

Both teams had serious trouble shooting the ball throughout the first 20 minutes, especially from behind the arc. The two squads combined to shoot 1-23 from three-point land in the half.

The common theme for Quinnipiac this season has been starting slow and finishing fast, and it rang true once again tonight.

“We know how we get in the first half,” Kortright said. “We know we start slow and then we go into playing hard.”

The shooting woes wouldn’t last long into the second half for Quinnipiac as Kortright and the rest of the Bobcats started to see their shots go down. He and junior guard Dezi Jones got the party started with consecutive threes before a solo 8-0 run by Kortright forced Fairfield to take a breather.

“We went into the locker room and said we gotta keep shooting our shots,” Kortright said. “We’re all good shooters so we knew whenever we hit it then we gotta get going.”

Kortright dominated the second half, with all 12 of his points coming in the final 20 minutes. It wasn’t just his shot-making that elevated Quinnipiac either, as he led the team with six assists in the frame. The junior guard had his hands all over the Bobcats’ second-half outburst as he finished with a team-leading 30.04 usage percentage.

It was truly a tale of two halves from the field as once the shots started going down Quinnipiac sprinted away with the game. The dominant second-half performance was capped off with a Jones alley-oop to redshirt senior guard Matt Balanc, which blew the roof off M&T Bank Arena.

As the time expired and the fans began making their way to the exits, the Bobcats left them with a simple message. Come again soon.

“Keep coming, if the whole Quinnipiac community is like this, we can win a chip,” Kortright said.

Quinnipiac improves to 17-6 and will remain at home to take on Mount St. Mary’s, Sunday at 2 p.m.