Quinnipiac 83, Fairfield 79

The Quinnipiac Bobcats (5-2, 1-0 MAAC) defeated their in-state rival Fairfield Stags (1-7, 0-1 MAAC) 83-79 Friday night in their first contest as members of the MAAC. Junior forward Ousmane Drame led the Bobcats with 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots.

Ousmane Drame powered Quinnipiac to their first MAAC victory (Photo Credit - Matt Eisenberg)
Ousmane Drame powered Quinnipiac to their first MAAC victory (Photo Credit – Matt Eisenberg)

After falling behind by as much as 9 points and losing the rebounding battle for much of the first half, the Bobcats rallied to score 16 unanswered points to help them take a 44-38 lead into halftime. The Bobcats never trailed in the second half and maintained a consistent 10 point cushion until the final 5:00 of the game when the Stags began to chip away.

Fairfield was able to cut the lead to 2 with four seconds remaining, but it was too little too late as Quinnipiac’s Zaid Hearst was able to ice the game with two free throws on the following possession. The Bobcats did not make a field goal in the final 7:00 of the game, but went 13-16 from the line during that time period to hold off the Stags’ rally.

“We took a punch in the face in the first 10 minutes,” said head coach Tom Moore on the first quarter of the game. “A couple of those timeouts I called, I challenged the guys pretty good. We showed a lot of heart and toughness from that point on, and to make a 16 point swing is pretty impressive.”

Hearst joined the 20-point club with Drame, contributing 20 points on 5-8 shooting and going 9-12 from the free throw line. Ike Azotam attained his fourth straight double-double, finishing the game with 16 points and 14 rebounds while freshman Kasim Chandler chipped in with 14 points and 4 assists off the bench. Shaq Shannon did not make a field goal in the game, but managed to pull down 11 rebounds and dish out 5 assists.

The Bobcats lead the nation in offensive rebounding (18.2 ORPG), but were losing that battle for much of the night. They trailed in that category 13-10 with 15:00 remaining in the game, but outdid the Stags to the tune of 7-2 the rest of the way.  Quinnipiac pulled down 50 overall rebounds for the third time this season as they out-rebounded the Stags 51-42 for the game.

“At first they came out with a lot of energy,” said Azotam of Fairfield’s early play. “They out-rebounded us and caught us off guard but it’s like second nature to us that we’re going to do it all game. After a while they backed off a bit while we just kept attacking the glass and at the end of the day we were able to out-rebound them.”

Overall, Quinnipiac shot 76% from the free throw line, good for their second best mark of the year behind the 85.7% they shot against Albany. However, that mark against Albany was achieved on just 14 attempts while the Bobcats more than tripled that number Friday, making 35 of 46 shots from the charity stripe. If the Bobcats can find a measure of consistency in their free throw shooting, it would shore up the one major issue that has plagued their offense over the years.

“We looked poised at the line tonight,” said Moore of his team’s improved free throw shooting. “We had years there where we were the worst free throw shooting team in the NEC, but we got better as the year went on last year and we’re better now than we’ve been in the past.”

Fairfield was led by a career effort from sophomore forward Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert entered the contest averaging 13.0 ppg, but flipped that number around as he put up 31 points on 11-19 shooting while going 6-10 from beyond the arc. Coleman Johnson and Lincoln Davis each brought in 12 points for the Stags while KJ Rose contributed 11. Johnson also brought down 7 rebounds to lead the team while Davis dished out 6 assists.

Quinnipiac travels to Rider to take on the Broncs on Sunday at 2 p.m., while Fairfield hosts Iona Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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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