James Ford Jr. had the best game of his Quinnipiac career Thursday evening. The junior guard poured in a career-high 18 points thanks in large part to a 4-8 mark from beyond the arc in the Bobcats’ 72-52 rout of Monmouth.
The 20 point win marks the second largest margin of victory the Bobcats have dealt the Hawks in the Tom Moore era. Since taking over in 2007, Moore’s squads are 13-2 against their former NEC, now MAAC conference rival and have now taken 10 meetings in a row. The only margin of victory greater than Thursday’s win came in a 71-48 victory nearly three years to the day, on February 4, 2012 in West Long Branch, NJ.
Quinnipiac, who entered the evening dead last in the MAAC in 3-point shooting, came out of the gates on fire. The Bobcats knocked down three of their first four shots from long distance, including a pair from Ford in the first five minutes to jet out to an early 11-2 lead.
It took Ford less than 13 minutes to come up with as many points, getting his new career high out of the way early. The Virginia native finished 3-5 from downtown in the first half, helping the Bobcats lead by as much as 16 in the first frame.
“Tonight my shot was just falling,” Ford said. “My teammates were finding me and I was feeling it. We took a bad loss at Niagara, and after that me and Evan [Conti] came together and said we were going to practice as much as we could. We were in the gym ever since then, making sure our shot was ready for tonight, and it paid off.”
For as well as Quinnipiac’s offense played in the first half, they struggled to get rolling again once play resumed. Monmouth managed three early points to cut the deficit to 10 and looked well on their way to trimming the lead even further, but that’s when Ford stepped up yet again in one of the more hectic sequences of the game.
Grabbing an offensive rebound off a missed Ford jumper, Ousmane Drame went up for the layup but was stuffed by Brice Kofane. Max DiLeo then fed a long pass to a streaking Justin Robinson. As he drove for a layup, Robinson was caught from behind by Ford, who slammed a clean block off the glass. Zaid Hearst grabbed the rebound and found Ford already at the other end of the court, where he knocked down a 3 from the corner to push the lead back to double digits.
“He’s got some great leadership qualities,” Moore said of Ford. “He hustles his tail off the whole time he’s out there and that’s indicative of the type of plays he can make. He will keep working, and when the first couple go in he’s more inclined to take the next couple too. After the block, he was ready to shoot it down at the other end too.”
Ford’s hustle gave the Bobcats some breathing room, but the Hawks came back minutes later to cut the lead to eight thanks to a 7-0 run with 11:11 left to play. At that point it was another role player, Evan Conti, who halted Monmouth’s momentum.
Conti knocked down a pair of 3-pointers on back to back possessions to once again put his team up by double figures. Conti finished with just a 2-5 mark from 3-point range, but his two baskets ended up cementing the win, even with over 10 minutes left to play. The senior guard finished as the team’s second leading scorer with 13 points, following a 26 point effort in the team’s last game at Niagara.
“I was just ready to catch and shoot,” Conti said, reinforcing the camaraderie between him and Ford. “Me and Ford were teammates on the Buffalo trip and we talked about how we needed to be a lot more aggressive. We were being too passive the last few games. Ousmane [Drame] and Zaid [Hearst] had too much pressure on them to score. We needed to be more aggressive and help them out.”
With his third rebound of the game, Drame became the fifth player in Quinnipiac history to join the 1,000 point, 1,000 rebound club and the third in the last five years under Moore (Justin Rutty ’11, Ike Azotam ’14).
Drame leads the MAAC in rebounding with 10.7 rebounds per game and averages a double-double with 14.5 points per game. The senior forward recorded his nation-leading 16th double-double of the season and 40th overall with a stat line of 11 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks against the Hawks.
Monmouth was led by 12 points from Deon Jones, who battled through early foul trouble to lead the Hawks’ attack. Following Jones was the duo of Robinson and Austin Tilghman with 11 points apiece. Robinson finished just shy of a double double with nine assists, which tied a career high.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.