The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

MAAC Tournament: Quarterfinal preview between No. 1 Quinnipiac, No. 9 Canisius

Nicholas Pestritto
Freshman guard Rihards Vavers drives to the net against Canisius on Feb. 4, 2024.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — If Quinnipiac men’s basketball wants to have a shot to win its first-ever conference championship, it will need to get past No. 9 Canisius first. 

The top-seeded Bobcats — who had a first-round bye — sat back and watched the Mountaineers and Golden Griffins duel it out Tuesday night, with the latter leading by as much as 16 en route to a 77-61 win in the opening round of the MAAC Tournament. 

“I think our guys have really been working hard,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said Tuesday. “It’s a blessing. … I told them before the game, ‘Do the ordinary things extraordinarily well.’”

The Golden Griffins now turn their attention to No. 1 Quinnipiac, who won 23 games, including a 25-point win over the Golden Griffins in Hamden.

“Having the ability to control the game the way we did, for a good portion of it, means we’re getting better each day,” head coach Tom Pecora said on Feb. 4. 

For Canisius, the strong outings from junior guard Tre Dinkins (24 points) and junior forward Frank Mitchell (16 rebounds, eight points) will need to carry over into Wednesday night. The scoring will need to come in bunches, as in both regular season matchups, the winning side won by 20 or more points. Canisius beat the Bobcats in their MAAC opener on Dec. 1.

If the Bobcats want to survive and advance into the semifinals, they will need to have a repeat performance from graduate student guard Matt Balanc. The captain’s 23 points in the last battle between these two teams paced the Bobcats and was another stepping stone en route to his 2024 MAAC Player of the Year campaign. 

“You can win as many games as you want, you can win all the accolades, but none of those mean anything if you go home with a loss at the end of the season,” Balanc said. “We want that championship.”

The skill level may lean toward the Bobcats, but it’s not the only thing that will be in their favor. Canisius only played seven players due to a very depleted roster. Tack on the second game of a back-to-back and the Golden Griffins will essentially be gassed heading into the quarterfinals. 

“We gotta be thankful and I’m thankful, glory to God, for the guys that we have that keep working,” Witherspoon said. “That’s how we have to approach it.”

Those guys will have a tall task ahead of them. The Bobcats’ have a four-headed monster of Balanc All-MAAC First Team), graduate student guard Savion Lewis (Second Team), senior forward Paul Otieno and sophomore forward Amarri Tice (Second Team). Those four, along with a deep bench group, have had teams scuffling and will look to lead the Bobcats to their first postseason win in over 700 days. 

“We’re all like family, we’re like brothers,” Tice said on March 8. “That’s what winning teams are and that’s what winning teams do.”

After the last time these two faced off, Pecora set up the future matchup perfectly.

“It’s gonna be a wild MAAC tournament, it’s a great way to continue to motivate our guys,” Pecora said after the Bobcats’ 88-63 win over Canisius on Feb. 4. “We’re on the back nine, we made the turn and now we’ve got to continue to get better.” 

Tip-off for the quarterfinals is set for 6:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to Friday’s semifinal against either No. 4 Rider or No. 5 Saint Peter’s.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Ethan Hurwitz
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

Comments (0)

All The Quinnipiac Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *