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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Bullock’s 26 points, Purple Eagles hot shooting help Niagara down Quinnipiac 80-66

Nicholas Pestritto
Graduate student guard Savion Lewis dribbles the ball toward the hoop during a game against Niagara on Feb. 18, 2024, at the M&T Bank Arena.

HAMDEN – For the first time since December, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team lost at home. The Bobcats and Niagara Purple Eagles were tied at the half, but the visitors outscored Quinnipiac 43-29 in the second frame to snap the hosts’ six-game home winning streak Sunday afternoon.

Despite the loss, the Bobcats still remain in first place in the MAAC with a two-game lead at 11-3.

“Hopefully it’s a kick in the tail,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Pecora said. “I talked to the captains about ‘with greatness comes responsibility,’ and they’ve got to hold guys accountable. We’re still in the driver’s seat, we’ve just got to get our mojo back.”

Defense ruled the first half. The two sides opened the game a combined 8-29 from the field in the first eight minutes, allowing the Bobcats to grab a slim 13-10 lead. 

Quinnipiac, led by graduate student guard Matt Balanc, got things going offensively midway through the first half. Balanc knocked down a flurry of tough shots to bring the Bobcats’ lead to seven, and his point total to nine. 

However, the Purple Eagles withstood every blow Quinnipiac dished out, keeping the game tight the entire first half. 

After redshirt senior forward JJ Riggins missed a free throw, the Purple Eagles perfectly executed a fast-break with four seconds left — capped off by a beautiful floater by junior guard Dre Bullock to tie the game at 37 at the half. 

Bullock was a one-man wrecking ball all afternoon, scoring 17 of his 26 points in the first half. His offensive prowess was a looming problem for Quinnipiac all game, as the North Carolina native effectively beat defenders off the dribble while knocking down six of his eight three-point attempts. 

“We talked about crowding him. He made shots today, so that was a challenge,” Pecora said. “One of our game goals is to hold opposing players under 20. He shot the ball better than he ever has, but I also thought he had great timing. We weren’t there on our closeouts, we weren’t up into him like we needed to be.”

With the Bobcats implementing a full-court press to open the second half, graduate student guard Savion Lewis got called for a defensive foul. The foul,  which Pecora wasn’t a fan of, led to arguing with officials until the Bobcats’ head man earned himself a technical foul. 

“That will be a private conversation I have with the head of officials,” Pecora said. “On this level, they get paid very well … I’ll watch the tape, but there were a lot of fouls in the first half that I thought we usually get to play through in this league … Officials are human.”

Pecora hoped the technical foul would help provide a spark for his team, but it went the other way, with the visitors using the tech to help ignite themselves on a 10-2 run. The Bobcats had one defensive lapse after the other, as Niagara snagged a 50-42 lead.

With the Bobcats trailing, junior guard Doug Young got to work. The Houston native scored seven straight points for the hosts to bring the deficit down to four with just under four minutes remaining. 

From there on, it was all Purple Eagles. Sophomore forward Harlan Obioha put an exclamation point on the victory with an emphatic two handed jam, which sent most of the Bobcat faithful to the exits with a minute to go and the game out of reach. 

“It started on the perimeter, and then it ended inside,” Pecora said. “We got (the deficit) down to a workable number, and they blew by one of the guys on the perimeter for an uncontested layup. There will be a lot of breakdowns that we’re gonna show guys, and I imagine a lot of guys are going to be embarrassed by it. That’s not the way we defend in practice, and that’s not how we scheme our defense.”

Following the 80-66 loss, the Bobcats will turn their attention to Fairfield, who will come into Hamden for one of the biggest games of the season on Friday night. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. on ESPNU.

“We’re 19-6, if that doesn’t get you here, especially the student body, it’s a great part of the college experience,” Pecora said. “I think they’ll turn out on Friday night… I think it’s a great thing for MAAC basketball and a great thing for Connecticut basketball. It’s gonna be a great environment for a college basketball game. Bring your popcorn, Friday 9 (p.m.).”

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