Dimitri Floras had yet to score a collegiate point as Quinnipiac entered the final 12 minutes of regulation trailing Albany 44-38, but a breakout performance from the freshman helped propel the Bobcats past the Great Danes 76-73 in overtime.
With 11:49 left in regulation, Floras buried a 3-pointer to trim what had been an early 16 point Albany lead down to just three. Less than two minutes later an Ousmane Drame jumper gave the Bobcats their first lead of the game 45-44.
Floras would go on to score eight more points in regulation, but let his inexperience show in the final seconds. With the contest tied at 62, teammate Evan Conti launched a turnaround jumper with six seconds left on the clock. The ball bounced off the side of the rim and into Floras’ hands.
In the heat of the moment and with time winding down, Floras rushed the layup attempt, which rolled off the front of the rim and sent the game to overtime. However, he quickly made up for his mistake by putting the Bobcats ahead for good with a jumper 10 seconds into the extra period.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun watching him over the next four years,” Quinnipiac assistant coach Eric Eaton said of Floras. “He’s a tough kid. He’s a little quiet, but he’s just got that stone-faced killer in him. We were waiting for it in practice. He would make shots in practice, but we all know you have to do it in a game to feel good about it, and he sure did it tonight.”
A 19-21 shooting performance from the free throw line helped Quinnipiac seal the game down the stretch. Though Albany had opportunities to win the game, even gaining control of the ball with 10 seconds left to play and down just a point, the Bobcats were able to hold their ground.
Quinnipiac, who entered the game ranked first in the nation in rebounding, lost the battle on the boards 37-36. Ironically, the difference was one offensive rebound – a category the Bobcats have led the nation in each of the last four years.
Drame led all scorers with 18 points in a balanced Quinnipiac attack. Floras ended his breakout night with 14 points, including a 3-5 night from behind the arc. Conti and Zaid Hearst also finished with 14 points apiece.
Peter Hooley led the Great Danes with a season-high 17 points. Junior Ray Sanders matched a season high with 10 points while senior Sam Rowley neared a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.
The Bobcats continue their trek through the America East conference with a home meeting against in-state rival Hartford on Tuesday. The Hawks beat MAAC rivals Saint Peter’s and Niagara, by a combined margin of four points, but will look to avenge their anemic offensive performance from opening night at the TD Bank Sports Center.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.