It was a bit disquieting watching seemingly helpless Quinnipiac be destroyed on the boards Monday against Siena in an 84-75 loss, almost like an empire whose time had finally faded away. The Bobcats went 10 straight seasons among the top 10 offensive rebounding teams in the nation (nine of them in the top 5) leading into 2016-17, and was sixth on the defensive glass as late as two years ago.
Quinnipiac was renown as a rebounding capital of college basketball America, it led its media notes, it was their signature, their claim to fame. So a 52-27 rebounding advantage for an opponent that included 22 offensive boards (55.0%) was difficult to look at in the boxscore.
However, our dear numbers told us that Quinnipiac’s rebounding demise didn’t exactly start this evening. While they did lead the MAAC in offensive rebounding, it was barely (35.5 to 35.3%) ahead of Siena, and the Bobcats (8-14, 5-7) are a fairly dreadful 294th on the defensive boards (67.5%). The Saints are full of veterans, and Lavon Long (16 total rebounds), Brett Bisping (14 total), and Marquis Wright (yes, the point guard) had five offensive rebounds each in the contest.
Quinnipiac had struggled as it was, but Donovan Smith played only two minutes after spraining his ankle, while Abdulai Bundu was ineffective in 15 minutes. The only other real post player on the Quinnipiac roster is Chaise Daniels, who did produce 18 points and nine rebounds, but didn’t have any help.
“I think we’re smaller this year than we were a year ago,” Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore said. “Early in the season, I talked about how we would play multiple defenses and maybe press a little more. Since Christmas, it hasn’t really worked out that way because I’ve been so happy with how we’ve guarded. I’m happy with our toughness and our resolve. In general, we’re not jumping and trapping around, so I thought we’d go from like a +12 rebounding margin to maybe a +7, but after tonight, we’re basically even. We’re smaller, we’re younger, we’re weaker at a lot of positions, and we haven’t really compensated for the lack of size, especially at the 1, 2, and 3 positions.”
To be fair, those dominant rebounding teams never brought Quinnipiac to an NCAA Tournament, and the Bobcats have been much more attractive to watch offensively this season, led by freshmen Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss. With more experience and a little more help around them, the future for the Bobcats looks pretty bright. However, the days of being one of the most dominant rebounding teams in the nation are probably over.
“Their strength on the glass seemed to wear us down all game, like emotionally,” Moore said. “I don’t think our huddles were as emotional, we’ve had more emotional huddles on the road (Quinnipiac entered off away defeats to Iona and Monmouth). We didn’t really have a response tonight like we had in tougher spots. Our spirit and our will and our determination were great, but tonight I think their physicality on the rim just really drained us.”
What else did we learn at the TD Bank Center Monday night?:
- Veteran power
The reason why there was such high hope for Siena (picked second in the MAAC Preseason Coaches Poll) was their experience, but the Saints were 4-11 after another tough loss at Niagara and seemed to be going nowhere. Nico Clareth left the team, and that seems to have snapped the Siena (10-13, 7-5) seniors into life.
Lavon Long, who went through a spell of four games never getting out of double digits earlier this month, was outstanding in all facets: 26 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, zero turnovers. Marquis Wright added nine assists, Javion Ogunyemi was 12-14 from the field for 25 points (including a rare three-pointer), while Brett Bisping had 17 points and 14 rebounds. It is that quartet, all whose college careers are over after this season, that Siena will ride, hoping that the urgency kicks in. Maybe it did Monday.
2) Attacking the basket
Siena is a poor three-point shooting team (301.%, 329th), which has led to much of its problems. The best way to avoid that problem?
Don’t shoot them.
“The last 10 games everything is important,” Long said. “Getting to the end of my career honestly hasn’t hit me yet. I’m just thinking hey, it’s fun, I’m going to play as hard as I can and see what happens.”
The Saints took just six, a couple at the end of the game with shot clocks running out. The first half was quite counterintuitive as Quinnipiac played primarily a zone, and yet just two of their 39 field goal attempts were threes (both misses), as they were seemingly able to penetrate that zone at will. Long did step out and hit a couple of threes in the second half, and it likely won’t be as easy to score in the paint (58 points Monday) against future MAAC opponents, but it was certainly effective in this game.
“I kind of felt like I was due for a big game, the last couple of games I was struggling,” Ogunyemi said. I just knew how important how important this game was, we didn’t want to lose two in a row. I think that three-hour film session (after the Iona loss Friday) changed us. We don’t want to have another three-hour film session.”
3) Growing pains
Patsos compared Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss to two-year-old thoroughbreds after the game, saying once they filled out and became physically stronger, they will get even better. That won’t help Quinnipiac this season, especially against a veteran, strong team like Siena, but both did have 19 points Monday. But, as Dixon knew afterward, the Bobcats will need their help on the defensive end, especially on the glass.
“They’re thin and they’re young. It’s like horse racing, with a good two-year-old,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “They’re both going to get stronger, they’ve got good frames. They have skills and they can make shots. They made tough shots tonight. They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in this league. Dixon’s going to gain 15 pounds, well if he follows my diet, 30, and Kiss can really shoot it. There’s guys that you see that you know they’ve leveled off, but they look like young two-year-olds galloping around Saratoga, and look out when they’re three-year-olds.”
Said Dixon: “I can learn from Marquis (Wright) just being a good leader. He was quiet as far as scoring, but he didn’t let that get to him, he kept playing hard and in the second half he willed his team to a win. That’s something a good senior point guard does.”