Quinnipiac 102, Maine 61

Quinnipiac eclipsed the century mark for the first time in the Tom Moore era as they routed the Maine Black Bears 102-61 Monday night. The Bobcats avenged last year’s 76-71 loss in Hamden with force, as five players finished the game with double digits in points. Zaid Hearst and Umar Shannon led the charge with 19 points each. Hearst also tied teammates Ike Azotam and Ousmane Drame for the lead in rebounding with 12 apiece. Quinnipiac pulled down 60 rebounds in total, nearly matching the program record of 61 set against LIU Brooklyn in the 2011-12 season. Here are five thoughts on the Bobcats’ performance tonight:

1) Rebounding Dominance: Quinnipiac’s 60 rebounds were the most they’ve achieved since grabbing 56 against St. Francis Brooklyn on January 3, 2013. The Bobcats entered the game ranked 14th in the nation in rebounding, averaging 45.3 per game. Their dominance on the boards tonight vaulted that number to 48.2 rpg which should see the Bobcats back into the Top 10 in the nation, a place they’ve become all too familiar with in the last four years. Although forwards Azotam and Drame are focal points of any opponent’s scouting report, it has been guard Zaid Hearst who has led the Bobcats in rebounding in each of the last four games.

2) Ousmane Drame is Back: After getting off to a slow start averaging just 6 points and 3 rebounds in his first two games against Hartford and La Salle, Drame has rediscovered the intensity he played with in the second half of last season. Over his last three contests Drame has averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds, out-producing front court mate Azotam over that time span. Against Maine, Drame posted 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks. After averaging just 21.6 minutes per game last season, the combination of an increased workload with an intense and focused Drame could wreak havoc on the MAAC this year.

3) These guards can compete in the MAAC: Quinnipiac gets a lot of attention in opposing scouting reports for their front court presence and ability to grab rebounds. However, an unexpected strength of this team lies in their backcourt depth. As mentioned, Zaid Hearst leads the team in both points and rebounds from the guard position and has become a leader for the Bobcats in his Junior season. Umar Shannon has transitioned smoothly to his new home at QU, averaging 14.4 ppg this season. Freshman Kasim Chandler has already garnered attention as the point guard of the future in Hamden, averaging 12 points and 3.2 assists in the first five games of his collegiate career. Shaq Shannon and Evan Conti provide experience and depth around the perimeter while James Ford Jr. (8 points in three minutes of play vs. Maine) and Kendrick Ray are both capable players who have seen their court time diminished because of the depth in the backcourt.

The MAAC has a reputation of being a guard-dominated league and this Bobcat backcourt has the ability to step into their new league and achieve success. Quinnipiac had traditionally relied on their dominant frontcourt to win games in the NEC, but the more balanced attack this team has shown this year may be a precursor to success in the MAAC.

4) Umar Shannon reaches 1,000: Umar Shannon entered the matchup against Maine just 11 points shy of amassing 1,000 for his career and finished the night with 19. Shannon totaled 936 points during his undergraduate career at St. Francis University before transferring to Quinnipiac for his fifth year of eligibility. After posting a game-high 26 points in the 2011 season opener against VCU, Shannon sat out the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Though that season full of promise was lost, Shannon now has the opportunity to be a leader for this Bobcat team. As the starting point guard, he adds valuable ball-handling ability to the backcourt and also serves as a mentor to younger players like the freshman Chandler.

5) QU defense steps up: Maine entered the game averaging 87.8 ppg, good for the 28th best mark in the country and the highest in the America East conference. However, Quinnipiac’s defense held the Black Bears to just 61 points on 35.8% shooting for the night. (The Black Bears scored just 0.77 points per possession in the game, QU’s best defensive performance of the season.) Maine had achieved their lofty scoring average in matchups that included two A-10 opponents in Rhode Island and George Washington. The Bobcats should take satisfaction from the fact that this Maine team was able to put up 81 points against a George Washington team that went on to defeat QU’s MAAC rival Manhattan 80-74. The transitive property often means little when talking sports, but it’s nice to be able to draw a comparison to conference rivals this early in the season, especially in Quinnipiac’s case where there is very little history between them and their MAAC rivals.

The Bobcats return to action December 2nd when they take on Boston University at 7:00PM at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden.

Vincent Simone will be chronicling Quinnipiac’s move to the MAAC and helping cover the conference this season for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone

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