Say Goodbye to Atlantic City: Bobcats drop Quarterfinal against Iona


Photos: Liz Flynn

Steven McAvoy

Year four of the Baker Dunleavy era had very different expectations.

Not the eighth seed in the MAAC Tournament, their worst seeding since Dunleavy took over.

Not a first-round exit, the team’s third in four years.

Not a 24-point loss, their worst conference tournament loss since joining the MAAC in 2013 and worst tournament loss since 2009.

After Tuesday’s loss at the hands of the Iona Gaels 72-48, the best way to describe the Bobcats season was inadequate.

 “We weren’t the best version of ourselves tonight,” Dunleavy said as he crossed his arms in distaste.

He has a right to be upset. The Bobcats shot a meager 28 percent from the field, their worst shooting performance in MAAC tournament history. While the Bobcats spread the ball well, no player managed to crack double-digit points.

The Bobcats went 2-15 on converting Iona turnovers into points. They went 9-20 (45 percent) from the free throw line, their lowest tally this season.

The Bobcats left 43 points unaccounted for between the stripe and the transition game.

Despite the negatives, there was one bright spot; The Bobcats held MAAC leading scorer Isaiah Ross to 15 points, his fifth-lowest tally of the season.

“We came out with really good effort,” said Dunleavy. “The score didn’t reflect how hard we played… [Ross] can go off for thirty-some nights and I think we did that.”

Despite holding Ross in check, the Gaels shot almost 47 percent from the field, their fourth-best performance of the season.

“Credit to [Iona], other guys stepped up and made it pretty balanced in the stat sheet,” said Dunleavy.

On the defensive end the Bobcats were without Seth Pinkney for most of the contest. The sophomore big ran into foul trouble early, and the Bobcats felt his loss. In the first half, which featured more of Pinkney, the Gaels only shot 32 percent from the field. With Pinkney out, the Gaels shot at an eye-opening 59 percent clip.

Despite finishing in the top five in the nation in opposing shooting percentage, the Bobcats simply couldn’t get it done in the most important game of their season.

And although the program lost Rich Kelly and Kevin Marfo to the transfer portal, the expectation was that a fully-recruited Dunleavy team would yield better than the eighth seed in the tournament.

While big names like Pinkney and Savion Lewis developed in year two, others like sophomore JJ Riggins didn’t get enough minutes to prove their worth.

First year Bol Akot and transfer Elias King were supposed to be the big incoming players this season. King was sidelined early due to injury, but Akot, like Riggins, wasn’t given many minutes to grow.

The Bobcats now look forward to year five, the final year of Dunleavy’s contract. The future seems uncertain, to a degree, as the Bobcats will graduate leading scorer Jacob Rigoni, but one thing is certain: there is a lot of young talent in this program.

Unless Dunleavy can show major development strides in year five, his future at the helm may be foggy come 2023.