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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

Missed opportunities for Bobcats leads to fourth-straight loss, dip in MAAC standings

Cameron Levasseur
Graduate student guard Matt Balanc misses a dunk in Quinnipiac’s loss to Rider on Feb. 25.

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. — Two weeks ago, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team was on the top of the MAAC, riding a 10-game win streak and a clear path to the conference’s top seed.

Enter: a four-game losing stretch, the most recent a gut-wrenching, 88-78 loss to middle-of-the-pack Rider Sunday afternoon. 

“I thought we played well in stretches,” head coach Tom Pecora said. “But we’re really struggling to get leads from seven to 17 (points).”

The Bobcats had a double-digit lead in the first half, up by 11 at one point. The second half, all the offense the visitors found so easily went away almost instantly.

Any strong layups that fell for graduate student guard Matt Balanc in the first half seemed to roll the other way just one half later. The same would go for the long-distance shots from sophomore forward Amarri Tice and freshman forward Rihards Vavers. 

“When the lights come on, you gotta bring it and be worthy of the minutes,” Pecora — who consciously made a decision to empty the bench early on — said. “We just got to get better for stretches … Defensively, (we’re)  not where we once were.”

The one who wrecked the Bobcats’ defense? Broncs redshirt senior forward Mervin James (30 points), who took over the final seven minutes of the fourth-straight win for a now red-hot Rider squad.

While the Broncs’ veteran stuffed the box score, Quinnipiac graduate student guard Savion Lewis was unable to contribute once again. After a three-point performance on Friday, the captain wasn’t able to find the bottom of the hoop just two days later. 

Has he lost a step?

“He won’t tell me he’s hurt, he won’t tell (the training staff) he’s hurt,” Pecora said. “He’s not playing like he was three weeks ago … He’s lost his super power.”

In Lewis’ stead, Tice (22 points) and junior forward Alexis Reyes (17 points) set career highs. The offense wasn’t the main issue Sunday, though the Bobcats did go long stretches without a bucket. 

For the hosts, the energy was brought from the opening tip. Big hustle plays from freshman guard Ruben Rodriguez and senior forward Tariq Ingraham got Rider back on the scoreboard, later elevating their games to grab a lead it wouldn’t surrender.

It was a feisty game for 40 minutes, as the Broncs’ bench carved out a niche by taunting any Quinnipiac player who committed a foul. But that sword was double-edged, as sophomore guard/forward Anthony McCall got tossed in the first half after smacking Tice below the belt.

The Bobcats’ usage of the center position was a surprise for the majority of the first half. Usually rolling out senior Paul Otieno to man the five, Pecora used a lot more of redshirt senior JJ Riggins. The latter held his own, but his minutes came right as the Broncs’ began their comeback efforts.

“He plays to exhaustion,” Pecora said. “Are you always going to protect him from himself? Yeah … that’s what we always say to him.”

Once Otieno got consistent minutes in the second frame, he finished with 10 points on 80% shooting from the field. The Nairobi, Kenya, native was one of five Quinnipiac scorers in double figures on the day. Only junior guard Doug Young (four points) and Riggins (two) had less.

Now with a week off until a road trip to Iona, Pecora’s message is crystal clear.

“I just talked to them about when adversity strikes, the true person comes out,” Pecora said. “How are we going to respond to this? … If we’re men, we’ll step up and be responsible for what we need to do to make it better, and that starts with me.”

How the Bobcats respond may or may not turn the entire MAAC upside down. Tip-off for the duel with the Gaels is set for 7 p.m. this Friday.

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Ethan Hurwitz
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor
Cameron Levasseur
Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

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  • L

    LMFeb 25, 2024 at 11:45 pm

    This isn’t about being men, it’s about being a committed TEAM. Each player has to enter that court to protect the honour of the team, the coach, the University and the season. Gentlemen you are literally letting the first men’s basketball team at QU to attend the NCAA tournament so that stigma of the only basketball at QU is the Women’s program that at least go to the big dance. I hoped this team was the one! No, I believe in you, believe in yourselves. I have played in 2 national championships, once 5th and the last we lost by 2 foul shots to finish second. That was a team because we respected each other and fought for each other’s honour. You can do it, go get your place in QU history and your respect!!