Quinnipiac implodes in second half, Niagara sweeps season series in OT


Peyton McKenzie

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team has now lost three-straight games against Niagara, dating back to last season.

Zack Hochberg, Staff Writer

Once again, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team could not close out a big road lead, falling to Niagara 79-73 in overtime Friday night.

The Bobcats got off to an ideal start in upstate New York, jumping out to a 22-13 lead after 13 minutes.

The visitors did everything necessary to build that lead, knocking down timely shots, playing sound defense and forcing turnovers. Junior guard Luis Kortright powered the Bobcats’ offense with eight points through the first quarter of the contest. 

Quinnipiac continued to get it done on the defensive end, helping it outscore the Purple Eagles (7-2 off turnovers), while Kortright continued to be the offense’s go-to guy, eventually climbing up to 14 first-half points.

With everything going the Bobcats’ way, Quinnipiac was able to build a ten-point halftime lead in a game that would eventually decide who took control of the MAAC’s No. 4 seed.

Quinnipiac continued to do everything right defensively, forcing the Purple Eagles into an 0-5 start from the field to open the second-half. This helped the Bobcats widen their lead to 17, the largest of the game. 

Senior guard Noah Thomasson gave the hosts some life halfway through the second frame, converting on a tough layup to bring the crowd to their feet and the deficit down to 11 with just 13 minutes to play.

After a stellar first-half, the Bobcats reverted to a ‘bend but don’t break’ style of basketball, as Quinnipiac settled for tough looks and an 0-7 start to the second-half from three allowed Niagara to grab some more momentum. 

Eventually, the Bobcats broke. 

A 9-2 run that spanned a bit over three minutes pulled the Purple Eagles to within three, and a game that seemed firmly in the Bobcats’ grasp was now a close game down the stretch.

Quinnipiac continued to fumble away chances to put the game away. After the Purple Eagles tied the game up on a free throw, the Bobcats were unable to grab a rebound on the ensuing missed free throw, giving Niagara another chance.

Both sides were stingy on defense – with the Bobcats forcing a shot clock violation – but Niagara had the ball with a chance to snatch the game away. 

Thomasson, just like he had done all night, came up big. A tough step-back three sent the home crowd into a frenzy, completing a 20-point swing and a 60-57 lead for the Purple Eagles with 20.7 seconds to go. 

Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy drew up a play for Kortright out of the timeout, and he got to the bucket with ease to pull Quinnipiac within one. 

After sophomore forward Aaron Gray went 1-2 from the line, it was Quinnipiac’s turn to try to tie it.

Following the missed free-throw, Kortright dashed up the floor, drawing a foul on Gray as his layup attempt dropped into the bucket. 

The Manhattan native couldn’t get the go-ahead free throw to fall, highlighting Quinnipiac’s inability to knock down free throws. An issue that has plagued the team all-season. Kortright’s  missed free throw sent the game to overtime.

The hosts controlled the overtime frame from the tip, and the Bobcats never had a chance. 

The momentum swing was too much for Quinnipiac to handle, as Niagara quickly snagged a 70-63 advantage as overtime closed in on its final minutes.

As the final buzzer sounded, the Bobcats had once again fallen apart after taking  a big lead on the road, just as they had done against Iona less than two weeks ago

The loss drops Quinnipiac to 8-6 in conference play, but more importantly, down to No. 5 in the conference. 

The Bobcats will be in back action on Feb. 12, when they travel to Buffalo to play Canisius. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.