Bobcats turn the ball over 30+ times in both Niagara matchups, lose by five on Thursday


Benjamin Yeargin

The Bobcats lose their first game to Niagara after winning 10 straight prior.

Zack Hochberg, Staff Writer

HAMDEN, Conn – Sometimes stats don’t always tell the story, but that wasn’t the case tonight, as the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team turned the ball over 30 times – all while shooting under 40% from the field – in their 63-58 loss to the Niagara Purple Eagles Thursday.

The loss snapped Quinnipiac’s 10-game win streak, which spanned back to Jan. 14 when it fell to Iona 47-42.

Before the game started, the Bobcats celebrated head coach Tricia Fabbri’s 500th win, an accomplishment she reached on Feb. 16 in a 75-55 win over Mount St. Mary’s.

Niagara opened the evening in a man-to-man full-court press, swarming the ball every chance it got. This has been a large part of the Purple Eagles’ defensive scheme that leads all of NCAA Division I in turnover margin. 

“They’re truly relentless (in) full-court,” Fabbri said. “You never know where it’s coming from. They definitely disrupted us all night.”

The two sides went back-and-forth, as the game turned into a track meet with Quinnipiac taking a 6-4 lead midway through the first. 

As Quinnipiac continued to struggle with the Purple Eagles’ defense, Niagara continued to give the Bobcats life. Sophomore guard Aaliyah Parker fouled Bobcats sophomore guard Jackie Grisdale near mid-court with 0.7 seconds left, sending Grisdale to the free-throw line.

Despite the bad foul, Parker was the Purple Eagles’ best scorer in the first quarter, taking 11 of Niagara’s 21 shots, leading the visitors with eight points.

Grisdale knocked down the pair, giving the Bobcats a 14-10 lead after one. 

The other Parker sister, senior guard Angel Parker, torched Quinnipiac to open the second quarter. Angel Parker went on a 7-0 scoring run of her own to grab a 17-14 lead for the Purple Eagles. 

Senior guard Makenzie Helms tried to swing the momentum back in Quinnipiac’s direction, swatting away three Purple Eagles’ shots in two minutes, a career-high for Helms. 

Not only was Helms a factor on the defensive end, she was one but she was also Quinnipiac’s most reliable ball-handlers against the formidable Niagara defense. 

“I thought Makenzie Helms was really good for us tonight,” Fabbri said. “She handled the pressure well tonight and getting us into some good sets that we were able to go inside-out.”

Quinnipiac’s lead was short-lived, as Angel Parker’s floater as time expired gave Niagara a 28-26 advantage at the break. 

The halftime break didn’t help the Bobcats, as they opened the third quarter with three straight turnovers, allowing a 7-0 Niagara run to catapult them behind 35-26.

“We needed to be better right out of the locker room after halftime,” Fabbri said. 

The game quickly turned from a regular-season game into a playoff-type atmosphere, as Aaliyah Parker got hit with a technical foul after she had some words for sophomore forward Grace LaBarge. 

With the Purple Eagles’ defense still clamping down on the hosts, Grisdale knocked down the team’s first three of the night to break a five-minute Quinnipiac scoring drought.

Quinnipiac, once again, had trouble closing out the quarter. Niagara’s lead had ballooned to 12, as it took a 47-35 lead after three.

The hosts finally woke up in the opening minutes of the fourth, as a running layup from LaBarge capped off a 7-0 Bobcats’ run to trim the deficit down to five. 

“The third quarter put us down, so it was us just trying to keep pushing, staying cool and calm with the press because we knew they were just going to keep coming after us,” senior forward Cur’Tiera Haywood said.

Despite getting into early foul trouble, graduate student forward Mary Baskerville was able to make her presence known during the Bobcats’ fourth quarter. 

The Providence transfer fired up the Bobcat bench as she reversed the ball to find Grisdale on the wing for an open three-point shot. She then leaked on a missed shot for an easy fast-break layup to tie the game. 

Quinnipiac took its first lead since the first half midway through the fourth, as LaBarge knocked down a three to give the Bobcats a brief 52-51 advantage. 

However, just like they had done all night, the Purple Eagles’ defense came through when it mattered most, getting timely stops to put Quinnipiac back on its heels. 

The Bobcats picked up their 30th, and most important turnover of the night, down three when Aaliyah Parker missed her second free throw with 13.9 to play. Immediately after, Baskerville gave it right back to the visitors, sealing the game. 

The Bobcats are back in action Saturday night when they travel to New York to take on the current No. 3 seeded Siena Saints. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in a massive showdown that could have implications on the upcoming tournament seeding.