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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

No. 1 Bobcats overpower No. 9 Canisius with 24-point win, advance to MAAC semifinals

Tyler Rinko
Graduate student guard Savion Lewis drives to the rim during Quinnipiac’s quarterfinals win over Canisius on March 13.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Quinnipiac men’s basketball’s Savion Lewis, Paul Otieno and head coach Tom Pecora were laughing and throwing wallets around the table. Just minutes later, Canisius’ Tre Dinkins and Devean Williams sat teary-eyed — almost silent — as they were forced to answer questions from the media. 

The postgame press conference was just a microcosm of tonight’s MAAC Tournament quarterfinals at Boardwalk Hall. It was indicative of how the game went, as the No. 1 Bobcats chewed up and spit out the No. 9 Golden Griffins in a 24-point thumping Wednesday night. 

“The whole experience has been just off the charts,” Pecora said of Quinnipiac’s 76-52 win. “(These players) care about each other … If you got a team that cares about each other and you’re willing to share (your) feelings … you got a really good chance of doing good.”

The Bobcats — who allowed the least amount of points to a Division I opponent all year — were dominant defensively. The perimeter defense from Quinnipiac sophomore forward Amarri Tice and the aforementioned senior forward Otieno forced the Golden Griffins into some low-chance shots and early foul trouble. 

“(Junior forward Frank Mitchell) scores a lot of points on offensive rebounds, and they did a pretty good job of keeping him off the class,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “Give them credit.”

It was close in the first half. Canisius’ sophomore guard Williams was lights out from deep to open the game, and at one point, it had a slim one-point lead. That evaporated once Mitchell got his second foul and the Bobcats fed the rock to Otieno, over and over and over again. 

“Paul’s a beast and when he’s dominating … it’s contagious throughout the entire team,” graduate student guard Lewis said. “Whenever Paul kills (it on the court), we’re all happy.”

It was an explosion for the Nairobi, Kenya, native on Wednesday. His double-double (19 points, 12 rebounds) showed those in attendance how big the chip on his shoulder was. After being snubbed for a MAAC All-Conference Team, Pecora said the team dedicated this week to their team captain. 

But being left off a postseason all-conference team didn’t affect Otieno in the slightest. At least not his play on the court. 

“Not being named, I don’t really mind at all,” Otieno said. “I just wanna play for my teammates, so I’m fine with it.”

“He’s a pleasure to coach,” Pecora interjected right after.

He sure isn’t a pleasure to play against for Canisius, as for the underdog Golden Griffins, it was a sluggish night. They came out of the locker room and started the second half on an extended scoreless skid. Once the Bobcats had built up a large enough lead, it still wasn’t enough for Canisius to claw back — even with Quinnipiac’s third unit on the floor. 

Strong outings from graduate student guard Matt Balanc (17 points) and Tice (13 points, nine rebounds) filled in the gaps for the clearly-rested Bobcats, who were playing in their first game since March 9. On the other side, the Golden Griffins were gassed beyond belief as the waning moments of the second game of their back-to-back ticked away.

“Fight until the end,” junior guard Dinkins said. “Obviously a hard-fought game, it’s gonna come down to the wire … Overall, it’s about staying positive.”

Canisius’ season will end and more questions will arise for Witherspoon. With rumors surrounding his potential job security for next season, a team representative shut down a postgame question about his future.

As for the victorious Bobcats — who won their first postseason tournament game since the 2021-22 season — they will now have a day off before suiting up again for the MAAC semifinals. They will await the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 4 Rider and No. 5 Saint Peter’s.

“Tonight, the game plan was good,” Pecora said. “It’ll be different for Friday because both of those clubs are very different (from Canisius) … It’s about the young guys buying in.”

Quinnipiac’s next game and a chance to play for a championship will tip-off at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

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Ethan Hurwitz
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor
Tyler Rinko, Associate Photography Editor

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