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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac rises to the occasion in local battle with Fairfield, budding rivalry emerging between schools

Graduate+student+guard+Savion+Lewis+currently+averages+7.5+assists+per+game%2C+second-most+in+Division+I.
Cameron Levasseur
Graduate student guard Savion Lewis currently averages 7.5 assists per game, second-most in Division I.

 Quinnipiac men’s basketball faced off against a familiar foe — and in-state rival — Fairfield this past Sunday at Leo D. Mahoney Arena. With both teams residing in Connecticut, and the added factor of being a major conference matchup, victory seemed even more important than usual.

Postmarked as a clash of MAAC heavyweights, the battle between the No. 1 Bobcats and No. 2 Stags showed all the signs of a rivalry to come. Both Fairfield and Quinnipiac played well and it came down to the wire. Graduate student guard Matt Balanc was the difference maker for the Bobcats, scoring the game-tying and go-ahead layups in a tight 66-64 victory.

“Both teams played their butts off, it’s a natural rivalry because of the proximity of the two schools,” Fairfield head coach Chris Casey said. “I don’t know if there’s a description for it other than both teams came to play and played really hard. If you’re a college basketball fan, that’s a great game.”

Each side played with high intensity, both defenses imposing their will in a fast-paced game. 

The packed arena, filled with over 3,100 rabid fans, was apparent even on television. Fans arrived on campus way before tip-off to revel in the atmosphere.

“Before the game, I came out early and there were six little guys in third or fourth grade and it just brings me back to sneaking into St. John’s games, trying to get a ride up to Fordham or Manhattan when I was a kid, and that’s what this rivalry can do,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Pecora said.

The game was a back-and-forth battle, with each team trading baskets and many lead changes throughout.

Quinnipiac — first in the conference heading into the Sunday matchup — is off to its best start in over 40 years. With first place on the line, the Bobcats held on to the No. 1 slot and earned their eighth-straight MAAC win.

A playoff-like atmosphere took over the arena on Sunday, filled with a mixed crowd of Stags fans as well as traveling Bobcats fans, eagerly rooting on their team to see who would be crowned the king of the rivalry. With both schools boasting an abundance of talent and off to a great start to the season, this game had a different feel than a regular college basketball game.

It’s quite possible that these teams meet again in the MAAC Tournament in March. Both teams have gotten strong guard play this season, with Balanc and graduate student guard Savion Lewis emerging for Quinnipiac, and Fairfield’s trio of senior Jalen Leach, redshirt senior Brycen Goodine and graduate student guard Caleb Fields stepping up for the Stags.

The Quinnipiac-Fairfield matchup has been a back-and-forth rivalry for some time now. Last year, the season series was split, with Quinnipiac winning by double-digits at home, and Fairfield gaining the advantage in the second matchup on its home court.

“I’ve been coming to MAAC games since the ‘80s,” Pecora said. “I have a lot of friends who have played here and saw a couple before the game. It’s a great rivalry and it’s great for the state of Connecticut.”

In hockey, Quinnipiac’s long-standing in-state rivalry with Yale is well known throughout Connecticut and beyond. If Sunday’s game is any indication, a similar local feud is begin to brew on the court.

But before the teams shift their vision to a conference tournament Quinnipiac has another chance to face the Stags, this time in Hamden.

There are only a few weeks to wait for the next chapter in this story. Quinnipiac hosts Fairfield on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.

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Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

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    Paul VazquezJan 31, 2024 at 10:50 am

    Well thought-out and written article! What an exciting game 👍🏼

    Reply