Bobcats win long-awaited season-opener over FDU


Photos: Liz Flynn

Noah Epstein

After much anticipation following a longer-than-usual offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team defeated the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights 84-66 on Wednesday in the first game of the season.

It had been 266 days since a basketball game was played at the People’s United Center, and the Bobcats were clearly ready.

Quinnipiac had five players who scored in double digits with Savion Lewis (12), Seth Pinkney (12), Jacob Rigoni (11), Tymu Chenery (11) and Elias King (11) leading the way. 10 out of 11 Bobcats scored during the game, as everyone in the rotation made an impact.

Bobcats head coach Baker Dunleavy was very impressed by how his entire team looked in the season opener.

“Whether it was scoring, defense or rebounding, everything was a team effort,” Dunleavy said. “Everything was collective, and that’s the way it’s going to have to be.”

After trading buckets with the Knights for nearly a whole half, the Bobcats went on a 9-0 run to close out the first half, and backed it up with a 17-6 run to start the second half. All of the sudden, the Bobcats were up by 18 after not leading since the game’s first minute.

The Bobcats maintained that big lead for the rest of the game. Quinnipiac took its largest lead of the game after a Lewis layup made it 82-55 with roughly four minutes left in the second half.

The Bobcats shot 9-24 from deep, while the Knights were 2-13. The board battle was another key advantage for the Bobcats. After the departure of Kevin Marfo, last year’s national leader in rebounding, how well the team would rebound was a major question. Quinnipiac outrebounded Fairleigh Dickinson 39-33, with 26 of those 39 being defensive rebounds.

“If we concentrate on defensive rebounding, the offense is here,” Dunleavy said. “And I thought that was evident tonight.”

Quinnipiac played extremely well offensively, shooting 49.2% from the field and 37.5% from three. Senior Jacob Rigoni, who was playing in his 95th career game today, shot 4-10 from the field and 3-8 from three. Rigoni now has 908 career points as a Bobcat.

The team also played well defensively, holding the Knights to 39.7% from the field and just 15.4% from three. Sophomore Elias King led the way for them on that end of the court, tallying 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in his Bobcats debut.

For the Bobcats, it’s a non-conference victory that could turn some heads. The Knights were the preseason No. 1 in the Northeast Conference (NEC), but Quinnipiac pulled off the upset handily. While Fairleigh Dickinson might have been ranked higher, they haven’t had much success when playing in Hamden. The Bobcats have now won nine of the last 11 matchups with the Knights, and the last time they won a game in the People’s United Center was in 2006.

The Bobcats become the first team in the MAAC with a win this year, as Fairfield lost to Providence earlier today. Their next game was originally set for Sunday Nov. 29 against Maine, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Quinnipiac’s next scheduled games are against Drexel and Albany next week when they play in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Connecticut.