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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

Quinnipiac Bobcats, Evansville Purple Aces set to face off in opening round of CBI Tournament

Tyler Rinko
Sophomore forward Amarri Tice dribbles the ball against Saint Peter’s in the MAAC semifinals in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

It may not be the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, but for Quinnipiac men’s basketball, this weekend is just another opportunity to play together as a team. 

For the first time since 2012, the Bobcats will suit up for the College Basketball Invitational, facing the Evansville Purple Aces Sunday night. 

“We’re excited to have our season continue at the 2024 College Basketball Invitational in Florida,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Pecora wrote in a March 17 press release. “An invitation to any postseason tournament is an honor, and I’m glad that our success during the regular season is being recognized. We look forward to showcasing our talent further down in Daytona Beach against other excellent college basketball programs.”

On paper, it’s a mismatch between the two teams. The No. 6 Bobcats set a program record with 24 wins en route to their first MAAC regular season title. No. 11 Evansville is coming in with a 6-14 record during Missouri Valley Conference play, though it ended the regular season on a two-game win streak.

The Purple Aces won their most games (16) since 2017-18, but in their way is Quinnipiac graduate student guard and MAAC Player of the Year Matt Balanc. Add in fellow graduate student Savion Lewis, and the Bobcats’ backcourt is set to give Evansville fits. 

“They’re quick,” Evansville head coach David Ragland said to WFIE. “They score 78 points-per-game and they have one of the assist-leading guards in the country, not just their league but the country, so we will have a game plan for that. They have the player of the year in the league on their team that averages 18 points, we’re going to have to slow him down.”

To slow Balanc down, the Purple Aces will need to rely on seniors, guard Ben Humrichous and forward Yacine Toumi. The former led Evansville with 14.7 points per game, while the latter was a defensive menace. Toumi was first on the team in defensive rebounds (120), and third in both blocks (17) and steals (24). 

It’s an unusual experience to play in a postseason environment despite falling in the conference tournament. For both sides, it gives them one more chance to “make history.”

“It’s just a big accomplishment,” Evansville senior guard Antonio Thomas said to WFIE. “We all came in with the same goal of trying to make history and be able to play long and continue to play with each other. Being able to have this moment is going to be very fun and important.”

There’s more at stake for Quinnipiac than just the outcome. Balanc currently sits 15 points away from setting the all-time program record for most career points, and sophomore forward Amarri Tice is just one steal away from becoming just the sixth different Bobcat (and first in the Division I era) to record 60 steals in a season. 

“I take pride in my defense and I think my defense translates to offense,” Tice said on March 7. “Regardless of the record, I’m just gonna go out there and continue to play defense.”

Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. and the winner will advance to face the winner of Saturday’s opening round game between No. 3 Seattle and No. 14 Delaware State in the quarterfinals. 

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About the Contributors
Ethan Hurwitz
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor
Tyler Rinko
Tyler Rinko, Associate Photography Editor

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