Quinnipiac men’s basketball to play Niagara in opening round of MAAC Tournament

Kriby Paulson and Bryan Schwartz

Photo: Samantha Bashaw
Photo: Samantha Bashaw

It is finally March, which means one thing: it’s postseason basketball time. The Quinnipiac Bobcats (10-20, 7-13 MAAC) open up the men’s side of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament Thursday at 5 p.m. against the Niagara Purple Eagles (9-22, 6-14 MAAC) in the No. 8 seed No. 9 seed matchup. The Bobcats won the first two meetings between these two teams, 81-78 at Niagara and 89-81 in Hamden. The winner of this game will face the MAAC’s number one seed, the Monmouth Hawks.

Players to watch:

Niagara – Matt Scott (Junior guard)
Matt Scott is the player Quinnipiac must contain if it wants to win this game. Scott has been a force for the Purple Eagles, averaging 17.3 points per game, seven rebounds per game and three assists per contest from the guard position. Defending the interior has been one of the Bobcats biggest problems since senior Donovan Smith has been out. Scott had 20 points and eight rebounds in Niagara’s last matchup against Quinnipiac in early February. Freshman guards Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss will have to stop the All-MAAC second-team selection for the Bobcats to have a chance at moving on to the quarterfinals.

Quinnipiac – Mikey Dixon (Freshman guard)
From one outstanding guard to another, Mikey Dixon will be playing in the biggest game of his young career. So far this season it has been the other freshman guard Peter Kiss shining in the spotlight, playing very well against potential national title contender Gonzaga and coming up clutch, hitting a game winner in the final seconds against MAAC-foe Fairfield. Dixon has the opportunity in this game to solidify his case as the conference’s rookie of the year. The freshman has scored at least 13 points in 13 of Quinnipiac’s last 14 contests, including a 28-point outburst Sunday against Rider in the regular season-finale.

Keys to the game:

Niagara – Stop Dixon and Kiss

The dynamic duo of freshmen Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss have been some of the only the bright spots for Quinnipiac this season, but big bright spots. Dixon leads the team in points per game (16.8) and Kiss is right behind him in second (13.3). Dixon is eighth in the nation in scoring among freshman. Niagara, on the other hand, is strong in the backcourt with Scott and Southern California transfer Kahlil Dukes, their two leading scorers (17.3 and 15.5 points per game, respectively). The Purple Eagles backcourt must outplay the young stars of Quinnipiac for Niagara to prevail.
Quinnipiac – Defense (again)

Every coach seems to say it: “defense wins championships.” Well, it is championship time and Quinnipiac must improve its defensive play. The Bobcats have allowed 83.2 points per game this season, which ranks as the worst in the MAAC by four points (Marist is 10th, allowing 79.1 points per game). The Bobcats are also tenth in the MAAC in three-point defense, as opponents are hitting their shots from beyond the arc at a .383 clip. Finally, the Bobcats are still without Donovan Smith, who is third on the team in rebounds per game with 5.4. Quinnipiac has to step up its play on the defensive end to be able to move on to the quarterfinals.

 

The game: Be sure to check out QBSN’s live broadcast of Quinnipiac and Niagara from the Times Union Center in Albany. Ryan Chichester and Bryan Schwartz have the call of the game. For updates throughout the game, follow our QBSN reporters on Twitter: @JoshMSilverman, @shanedennehy15, @BryanSchwartz15 and @ryanchichester1.