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Once again playing with a lineup lacking the firepower of guards Umar Shannon and Kasim Chandler, Quinnipiac used a pair of strong runs in the second half to capture a 74-64 victory over St. Peter’s Sunday afternoon and run its winning streak to five games.
The game looked to follow the same script as their first meeting, with St. Peter’s jumping out to a 12-1 lead in the early going. However, Quinnipiac responded with a 16-4 run over the next six minutes to take their first lead of the game at 17-16. Behind Ousmane Drame’s 13 points on 6-10 shooting in the first half, the Bobcats entered halftime with a 31-27 advantage.
Quinnipiac opened up the second half on a 12-4 run to form a comfortable cushion on their lead, and went on another 12-2 run midway through the half to balloon their advantage to 20. In response, St. Peter’s began to employ a press late in the second half, which gave Quinnipiac fits.
“They were up the whole game last time, we never saw their press,” forward Ike Azotam said. “We went over it a little bit in practice, but we kind of weren’t ready for it. That’s something that we’ll work on next time we practice and hopefully get a little bit better at it.”
While the Bobcats struggled to get the ball over mid-court, the Peacocks went on a 14-4 run to cut the lead to nine. However, that would be as close as St. Peter’s would get, as Quinnipiac made their free throws down the stretch to seal their fifth straight victory.
With the win, Quinnipiac improves to 17-8 overall and 12-4 in MAAC play. More importantly, they maintained their second place tie with Manhattan and Canisius, who each earned victories Sunday afternoon.
St. Peters’ normally stingy defense allowed 1.19 points per possession to the Bobcats – the most they have given up since allowing 1.26 PPP in their MAAC opener at Canisius. The Peacocks average just 1.02 PPP allowed to their opponents this year, sitting behind only Manhattan within the conference.
The Bobcats’ offense was powered by their inside duo of Drame and Azotam. Drame’s 23 points led all scorers, and the junior pulled down 12 rebounds to complete the double-double. Honored during senior day celebrations pre-game, Azotam posted 16 points and 11 rebounds for his 41st career double-double, tying him with former star forward Justin Rutty (’11) for the most in program history. Zaid Hearst had a strong second half to finish with 20 points on the afternoon.
“It puts stress on your defense because you’ve got to usually do something gimmicky to try to stop them,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said of having Azotam and Drame on the floor together. “They’re two experienced kids with a lot of talent and muscle. They’re a load. One of them would be a load, but to have to face two of them strains a defense.”
Three Peacocks scored in double figures, led by Trevis Wyche who matched his point total from the first meeting with 16 points while dishing out four assists. Marvin Dominique put up 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season. Chris Burke rounded out the scoring with 12 points, including two baskets from behind the arc.
Quinnipiac will look to keep their hot streak going as they make their first trip to western New York to take on Canisius Thursday, February 20. Moore’s team hopes to regain some of its firepower heading into the trip.
“I’m trying to get two things out of these next two weeks: A healthier team and a decent amount of wins,” Moore said. “You expect to sustain one or two injuries. You don’t expect to sustain six, and that’s what’s happened to us.”
They will need all the points they can get against Billy Baron and the Golden Griffins.
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.