Bobcats school Hawks 60-53 on College Experience Day

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Bobcats school Hawks 60-53 on College Experience Day

Photos: Liz Flynn

Photos: Liz Flynn

Photos: Liz Flynn

Photos: Liz Flynn

Steve Zocco

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Classrooms are full of valuable life lessons. On Thursday morning, the lesson at the Quinnipiac University basketball court was toughness. “Professor” (Head Coach) Tricia Fabbri and her prized pupils overcame a slow offensive start with stellar defense, and the Bobcats rallied in the second half to take down the Monmouth Hawks 60-53 in front of 3,000 screaming students.

Thousands of Hamden-area elementary, middle and high school students piled into the People’s United Center for College Experience Day, an initiative to bring local schools to a game during the season. The fans made their presence known throughout, with the noise at times reaching concert-like decibel levels.

The “college experience” was a positive one for the Bobcats too, especially for freshman Cur’Tiera Haywood, who bounced back with a career-high 17 points after a few cold games.

“My last few games, I haven’t really contributed much to the team,” Haywood said. “I really sat back and figured out what I need to do, and it was be more aggressive, definitely on the offensive end and defensive boards. Today, I knew my mindset was be aggressive on everything, and go get it.”

After a back-and-forth opening quarter, Monmouth dominated the final eight minutes of the first half, finishing on a 13-3 run and taking a 26-21 lead to the locker room.

The Bobcats broke the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Hawks 28-9, thanks to a focus on aggressive drives that resulted in several trips to the charity stripe. Quinnipiac converted on 11 of its 13 attempts in the quarter, and then capped the effort with a three-pointer from Haywood in the final seconds. Haywood’s clutch basket broke an 0-8 team slump from beyond the arc and gave the Bobcats a 14-point lead, their largest lead of the game.

The lead grew as large as 16 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before Monmouth fought back, cutting the deficit to six with just two minutes remaining. However, the Bobcats clamped down on the Hawks and held them scoreless the rest of the way. As the clock wound down, the students counted down the final seconds and erupted with cheers after the buzzer.

The experiment of pairing sophomores Shaq Edwards and Mackenzie DeWees together in the starting lineup instead of using a rotation continues to produce positive results for Quinnipiac. Edwards finished with 20 points and has now scored 20 or more in three of her last four contests, while DeWees added 10 points and six rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass, a number which both surprised and delighted her.

“I love rebounding,” DeWees said. “It’s funny because you think that the 5’7” girl running out on the floor, you should box her out, but apparently not.”

Additionally, senior Paige Warfel and freshman Mikala Morris remained vigilant in statistics, with both recording double-digit rebounds for the second consecutive game.

Senior Sierra Green led the way for the Hawks, while senior Lucy Thomas finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, just missing out on her fourth double-double of the season. Senior Alexa Middleton, who came in leading the team in double-doubles, was hampered by foul trouble and could never get going.

While the Bobcats’ offense continues to struggle, assistant coach Brian Wilson spoke highly of the team’s effort to lock down the Hawks, who shot just 30 percent from the field after an 81-point outburst their last time out.

“I thought that our defense was much improved,” Wilson said. “We spent a lot of time on defense in practice this week, that was really our emphasis.”

There may have been some extra fans in the stands, but the Bobcats weren’t fazed. Senior Taylor Herd spoke to the students after the game and thanked them for cheering the Bobcats to a win, while DeWees credited the loud atmosphere with helping to unify the team.

“It’s fun in the huddle when you can barely hear Coach, so everybody’s leaning in and I think that’s great,” DeWees said. “I think we need to lean in and listen and it brings us closer together.”

The Bobcats will look to win their third straight conference game when they return to action on Saturday as part of a double-header with the men’s basketball team. They’ll face Canisius in the opener at 2 p.m.