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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Bobcats pull out win over Navy, look ahead to Monday matchup with Yale

Tripp Menhall
Senior forward Paul Otieno watches the ball while defended after a free throw against Navy on December 8, 2023.

HAMDEN — Good teams find ways to win games. Maybe that’s why the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team is off to a 5-0 start at home, the best since 2009-10 (where the Bobcats went 14-0 to kick off their home slate). 

Maybe that’s why, despite playing a messy game limited by illness-related fatigue, Quinnipiac was able to outplay the Navy Midshipmen 71-68 Friday night.

“There’s two ways you can look at it,” head coach Tom Pecora said. “You can say, ‘We’re a good team, we found a way to win,’ or you can say, ‘We got lucky, they outplayed us and we just won because we have a little bit more talent … I’ll make a decision (later).”

Regardless of what Pecora’s postgame film study says, it was a sloppy game. Both sides struggled to create any offensive pressure — especially on the interior — as well as playing sloppy and careless defense.

“In the first half, it was kind of tough for us to get the backdoor (passes),” sophomore forward Amarri Tice said. “We didn’t panic when it wasn’t there.”

It was a game of streaks – some good, a lot more not so good. The Bobcats would find a way to clamp down the visitors defensively, only to meet the same result on the other end. For Navy, its transition defense was vital in holding Quinnipiac to just 30 points in the first half. 

“We had to get a little more creative (with our backdoor cuts),” Pecora said. “We talked at halftime about getting … their defense moving, not only for the shot, but also … to be able to get guys offensive rebounding.”

The halftime horn sounded with the Bobcats nursing just a seven-point lead. Right out of the break, the wheels began to fall off. 

“You can win a lot of games in the first five minutes of the second half,” Pecora said. “You put your fingerprint and footprint on the game.”

Despite the tough sledding the Midshipmen presented, the Quinnipiac offense began to click when it needed to. Graduate guards Matt Balanc (18 points, six rebounds) and Savion Lewis (six points, seven rebounds, six assists) led the way. 

“I don’t really think about the shots that I shoot sometimes,” Balanc said. “I have a shooter’s mentality, So if I don’t see one go in, it doesn’t really bother me that much. I’m gonna continuously shoot the shots that I get.”

Those two were the catalysts for the eventual scoring outburst that featured 12 fast-break points and 16 second-chance scores. Even deep bench players, like freshman guard/forward Daemar Kelly and redshirt senior forward JJ Riggins got valuable minutes.

“Great minutes from JJ Riggins in the first half, I thought that was very important,” Pecora said. “(Kelly’s a) pretty good defender, so we were able to put him on the ball today.”

With the game winding down, and the hosts holding onto just a slim one-possession lead, things started to unravel. Bad turnovers in their own end led to easy chances for the Midshipmen. Bad fouls, including Tice eventually fouling out, gave a chance for Navy to stay alive. 

But again, good teams find ways to win games. Thanks to some lights-out shooting at the free throw line from Lewis and Balanc, the Bobcats were able to escape with the victory. 

“I got a little frustrated at first and then I realized (Pecora) emphasizes ‘We over me’ a lot,” Tice said. “So I got out of my feelings and poured (them) into the team.”

Now Quinnipiac — winners of back-to-back games — turns its attention to local foe Yale. But the stout Bobcats defense, which has held opponents under 70 points in five separate occasions this year, isn’t running away from the primetime fight.

“Everybody gets the same smoke,” Balanc said, ahead of Monday’s game against Yale. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

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About the Contributors
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor
Tripp Menhall, Associate Photography Editor

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