Despite ball control issues, Quinnipiac holds on against Siena to snap three-game skid


Casey Wiederhold

Friday’s win moved Quinnipiac men’s basketball into a tie with Niagara for fourth in the MAAC.

Connor Wilson, Staff Writer

Looking to avoid its fourth consecutive loss in conference play, Quinnipiac men’s basketball did just that as the Bobcats defeated the Siena Saints 66-63 Friday night at MVP Arena in Albany.

The Bobcats dominated in the first half, as they held the lead for over 17 minutes. Redshirt senior guard Matt Balanc (12 points and six rebounds) scored a team-high eight points before the break and was one of nine Quinnipiac players in the scoring column before halftime.

Joining Balanc in double figures were junior guards Dezi Jones (12),Luis Kortright (10) and junior forward Paul Otieno (10). Kortright also had a team-high seven rebounds.

Early on, it was the frontcourt pounding their way inside, as graduate student forward Ike Nweke, Otieno and redshirt junior forward JJ Riggins combined for 11 of the Bobcats’ first 16 points. 

In the teams’ previous matchup in late December, Siena was led by sophomore guard Javian McCollum and his 25 points. In the first half of Friday’s matchup, he had just two points. 

The Bobcats made it a point to take away the perimeter in the first half, switching from a 2-3 zone to man-to-man defense all throughout the half. This led to Siena scoring just 22 points and shooting 11% from three before the break.

Tonight, the Saints were led by graduate student forward Jackson Stormo, who scored 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Stormo came off the bench for the first time this season after struggling last weekend against Mount St. Mary’s and Marist, averaging 5.5 points per game, far less than his usual 13 points per game average.

McCollum finished the game with just eight points, half of which came from late-game free throws after Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy elected to foul intentionally in the final seconds. It wasn’t just McCollum who struggled, as Siena shot just 7-23 from three-point range as a team.

Despite the victory for Quinnipiac, it wasn’t a pretty one. The Bobcats turned the rock over 19 times compared to Siena’s 12. In the second half alone, the Saints outscored the Bobcats 41-30, thanks to 12 Quinnipiac turnovers. The Bobcats’ backcourt had trouble both taking care of the basketball and getting the ball inbounds late in the game.

On a positive note, free-throw shooting was not a problem. The Bobcats shot 12-14 from the stripe, good for 86%. In the final 40 seconds of regulation, Quinnipiac shot 8-9 from the free throw line with the lone miss being by Otieno on the front end of a one-and-one.

The game was broadcasted on ESPNU, marking the second time this month the Bobcats have played on national TV. At halftime, ESPN analyst Kevin Connors led a segment remembering the life of Quinnipiac professor and former ESPN employee Barry Sacks, who passed away last weekend at the age of 63. Several current and former Quinnipiac School of Communications students were featured sharing their memories of Sacks.

Feb. 17 also marked the four-year anniversary of Quinnipiac’s 107-100 triple overtime win over Siena at MVP Arena. Former Bobcats guard Cameron Young scored a MAAC-record 55 points in the thriller. Quinnipiac’s top-six scorers Friday night didn’t even reach that number combined.

Up next for the Bobcats is another important MAAC game as they welcome second place Rider to Hamden. Tip-off is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m., as Quinnipiac looks to complete the season sweep of the Broncs and inch closer to clinching a first round bye in the MAAC Tournament.