The stakes were as high as a college basketball game on the second day of January could be. Saint Peter’s visited Quinnipiac Friday afternoon, and each team was aware the winner would be left in an 0-3 hole to start MAAC play.
At the end of the day, it was the Peacocks of Saint Peter’s who prevailed, defeating Quinnipiac 66-60 and handing the Bobcats their fourth home loss of the season.
After missing eight games due to a hand injury suffered in the Peacocks’ season opener, Desi Washington has been on a roll. The senior guard entered Friday averaging 15.3 points per game in the four contests since his return and once again filled the stat sheet. Washington led the Peacocks with 17 points including a 3-4 mark from behind the arc.
“It’s a great feeling just being back out on the court,” Washington said. “Missing eight games my senior season really took a toll on me, but the guys responded well and I’m just happy to be back on the court with them.”
During Quinnipiac’s recent three-game winning streak, the Bobcats’ offense finally found a level of consistency they lacked early in the season. During that stretch, the Bobcats averaged 73.7 ppg, nearly four points higher than their overall average of 69.9 ppg.
Faced with Saint Peter’s stifling defense which has held opponents to a mere 57.9 ppg this season, the Bobcats once again regressed to a below average offensive attack. Quinnipiac was held to just 32.2% from the field and didn’t hit a 3-pointer until the final three minutes of the game.
“I don’t think it was any one thing in particular,” Saint Peter’s head coach John Dunne noted of his team’s defense. “I think we played really hard, we played solid defense. They missed a couple of open ones they’ve usually been hitting as well to help us out a little bit.”
The Bobcats ended the game 2-18 from behind the arc, the fourth time this year they have finished with two or fewer 3-pointers made. The struggles from behind the arc have been a noticeable problem for Quinnipiac all year. According to KemPom, the Bobcats rank 325th out of 351 Division I programs with a 27.7% shooting percentage from long range.
“I knew we would be guarded hard today, because that’s what they do,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “Coming into this I was fearful that it could go this way. I expected our guards to make more shots when they’re open. It’s a wear-down effect. Saint Peter’s really guards you hard and we just didn’t make our shots.”
The game’s complexion took a drastic turn early in the first half, when Quinnipiac’s Zaid Hearst picked up his second foul less than nine minutes into the contest. Moore, a strict adherent of the philosophy of sitting players with two fouls, had Hearst take a seat on the bench until halftime.
“You never know how a game is going to evolve,” Moore lamented. “I have a rule about guys sitting the rest of the half when they have two fouls, but I’m conflicted by it a lot. A lot of times I’ll think about putting the guy back in. In hindsight obviously you second guess everything. That was a huge call in the game and Zaid’s offense probably could have helped us the rest of the half.”
Despite posting a paltry two points in the first half, Hearst powered Quinnipiac with 24 second-half points. The senior guard scored the Bobcats’ final 12 points and was able to cut the deficit from 14 to six with 90 second to play, but his one man show was not enough to bring Quinnipiac back. Hearst also grabbed 11 rebounds in the effort for his third double-double of the season.
Following Washington in Saint Peter’s scoring attack were Quadir Welton and Trevis Wyche. Welton recorded his second career double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Wyche added 12 points to tie a season high.
Now faced with the daunting task of climbing out of an 0-3 hole in the conference, the immediate future for Quinnipiac remains bleak. The Bobcats will take to the road for their next two contests at Iona and Monmouth. KenPom gives Quinnipiac just a 15% chance of winning at Iona and a 42% chance of defeating Monmouth.
Starting that uphill battle, perhaps bit of advice can be gleaned from the opposing sideline. Saint Peter’s started the season winless in their first four games, including a home loss to Niagara in an early MAAC contest. With Friday’s win over Quinnipiac, the Peacocks reached the .500 mark for the first time this year.
“Since we started 0-4 our whole mantra has been we’re only going to worry about the game we’re playing today,” Dunne said. “We’re not going to think about our record or anything else other than the task at hand.”
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.