Iona 95, Quinnipiac 73

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It had been 49 games and 691 calendar days since the Quinnipiac Bobcats were last out-rebounded by an opponent. 

That streak, far and away the longest in the nation, came to an end Friday night in a 95-73 loss at Iona. After dropping their first game in Hamden earlier in the year, the Gaels came out determined to be more physical. That mindset paid off as the MAAC’s worst rebounding squad outdid the nation’s top rebounding team 45-37 on the glass.

“Our effort to go rebound the ball, especially from our guards, was much improved” said Iona head coach Tim Cluess.  “I think we had a little added incentive to this game too.”

Ousmane Drame, Quinnipiac’s junior forward who has averaged 12.5 ppg and 9.8 rpg this year, sat out the game with a minor knee injury.  Though Drame posted just 8 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes in the teams’ first showdown in Hamden, his presence underneath the basket was sorely missed.   Iona also netted 12 second chance points to Quinnipiac’s eight.  It was just the fourth time the Bobcats were outscored in that category and the third occurrence that resulted in a loss. 

Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore made no excuses following the game, reinforcing his belief that the performance of the team extends beyond any one individual:

“Obviously [Ousmane] is playing real well and he’s a good player, but I’m just really disappointed with how everyone else played tonight,” said Moore.  “We have big boys who can step out and box people out without Ousmane being around.  We didn’t do it.”

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Sean Armand led all scorers with 23 points on Friday night in Iona’s 95-73 victory over Quinnipiac. (photo courtesy: ICGaels.com)

Five Iona players scored in double digits on the evening, with three reaching the 20-point plateau.  Sean Armand led all scorers with 23 points while the duo of A.J. English and Tre Bowman followed close behind with 20 points each.  Mike Poole and David Laury rounded out the scoring for the Gaels with 10 points apiece.  Although Iona won the rebounding battle, they did so in a team effort as no player grabbed more than eight boards.  The 45 rebounds were a season-high for the Gaels.

“Part of it was motivation, part of it was he let the game come to him,” said Cluess of Armand, who was held to just 10 points in the first meeting with Quinnipiac.  “Even early on in tonight’s game, it looked like on the first couple of possessions he was trying to force the issue a little bit.  He’s growing up as a player and handling it in a really good way.”

Despite the absence of front-court mate Drame, Ike Azotam had another fantastic game.  The senior forward scored 18 points to lead the team and pulled down 16 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season.  Umar Shannon finished just behind with 15 points, while Shaq Shannon and Evan Conti each finished with 10 points. 

Both teams started out shooting poorly, with neither shooting better than 40% from the field in the first half.  The teams went a combined 4-22 from behind the arc in the first frame, but it was Iona who took a 35-26 advantage into halftime.  The Gaels’ first points in the second half came on 3-pointers from Armand and English and they never looked back, leading by as much as 25 late in the game.

Each team finished the first half below 1.00 points per possession.  Iona sat just under the mark with 0.99 PPP in the first frame, while Quinnipiac was held to just 0.74 PPP.  However, the Gaels found their rhythm in the second half, scoring at a clip of 1.38 PPP en route to 60 points.  Quinnipiac picked up the pace a bit in the second half, but finished the game at 0.91 PPP, their lowest mark thus far in MAAC play.  Iona’s 1.21 PPP for the game was the second highest total given up by the Bobcats to a MAAC opponent this year (1.24 PPP to Rider).

Quinnipiac and Iona each return to action Sunday, January 26.  Quinnipiac travels to Manhattan where they will once again miss the services of Drame, while Iona is set to visit St. Peter’s.  Both games are scheduled for 2 p.m. tip times.

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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