Quinnipiac Men’s Basketball Grinds Its Way to 67-56 Win


Photo: Olamide Gbotosho

Jacob Shiffer

The Bobcats may have played eight different players, but they were almost defeated by just one. Sophomore guard Marcus Hammond scored 36 points for the Niagara University Purple Eagles but the Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s basketball team prevailed and grinded their way to a 67-56 victory.

“We say ‘attitude.’ That’s like our team motto and that attitude just means like ‘next play’ and ‘control what you can control’,” Rich Kelly said. “Throughout the game, a lot of stuff wasn’t going our way and we just kept saying ‘attitude’ and ‘on to the next play’ and I think eventually things started going our way because of that mentality.”

Both teams struggled behind the arc in the first half as they combined to shoot under 30%. The Bobcats were able to take a three-point lead into halftime behind the play of redshirt first-year guard Matt Balanc off the bench who led the team with eight points and seven rebounds in the first half.

In the second half, the Bobcats found their 3-point success and shot just over 36% from the three-point line. But as the Bobcats found runs, the Purple Eagles kept it within seven points for a majority of the second half.

“We just need a couple more stops and we would’ve been able to get out and run because we shot pretty well from the field,” Brendan McGuire said.

Hammond scored 19 of his 36 points in the second half. He gave the Purple Eagles the lead with 4:21 left in the game when he converted a four-point play after sinking a three-pointer while being fouled by Balanc.

“I think it was a good experience for us to have to fight through that,” head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “You know, just guard the guy who’s on fire and making really tough shots. and we gotta handle it better the next time.”

Down the stretch, the Bobcats turned to team leaders Kelly and redshirt-junior forward Kevin Marfo. Kelly sunk a clutch three-pointer coming out of a timeout to give the Bobcats a two-point lead. On their next possession, McGuire found Marfo in the paint who put down a thunderous dunk to push the lead to four points. Kelly followed that with another 3-pointer to push the lead to seven points and seal the victory.

“They’ve been in a lot of situations and you want guys like that who are not gonna get rattled at the end of the game,” Dunleavy said. “And that’s what causes you to be comfortable in those situations. They’ve been through the fire.”

McGuire continued to see his minutes increase and his playmaking pushed the team through the second half. He had 10 assists in the game including four to Marfo after they clicked on the pick-and-roll.

“We have a lot of guys like this but he’s just one of those guys that’s just clear-minded,” Dunleavy said. “You know, he plays for the team and lives in the moment. And if the right play is the pass, he passes the ball and he’s got a gift for it.”

The Bobcats finished with 51 rebounds, their most since Jan. 2, 2017 when they pulled down 52 rebounds against the Purple Eagles.

For their next game, the Bobcats will take on the Monmouth University Hawks on Sunday, Jan. 10 as they look to continue their unprecedented start to MAAC play. While the win over the Purple Eagles may have been closer than they hoped, Dunleavy knows the team learned some valuable lessons they can use moving forward.

“They took a one-point lead in this game down the stretch and we didn’t flinch and that’s probably the best thing I can say about this game,” Dunleavy said. “You don’t like those experiences when you’re in them and there’s a lot of discomfort but it’s really healthy and it’s really good either way.”