Battle of the Coaches: Iona and Pitino Defeat Quinnipiac and Dunleavy 76-61


Photo: Kaylyn Terry

Joey O'Donoghue

The Iona Gaels men’s basketball team defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats 76-61 on the Bobcat’s home court in a battle of two phenomenal head coaches. 

The Gaels continued their streak of perfection against MAAC opponents, improving to 8-0 in MAAC play with this victory against Quinnipiac. 

The Gaels came out hot as they led Quinnipiac 21-8 after a 15-0 run. Head Coach Rick Pitino spoke confidently about his player’s abilities. 

“I’ve got one of the better back courts in the nation,” Pitino said. “They’re mature, great guys. It’s an honor to coach them. We’re excited about this victory.”

The backcourt Pitino is referring to was vital to the team’s success. Tyson Jolly, the guard who led all players in scoring, finished the game with 20 points and seven rebounds. Elijah Joiner also scored double figures, as he recorded 12 points, five assists, and five rebounds. 

The Bobcats battled back from their early deficit as they went on a remarkable 17-2 run. Eventually, the game was tied 33 to 33 at the end of the first half. The Bobcat’s head coach Baker Dunleavy noted the positives despite the final score. 

“I thought the middle-third of that game was largely how we want to play, especially against a really formidable opponent like Iona,” Dunleavy said. “So, a lot of good things to take away.”

The Bobcats shot much better than the Gaels from the floor in the first half, shooting 41.9% to Iona’s 35.3%. 

The script flipped in the second half, however, as the Gaels kept their composure and made some excellent defensive adjustments. After a first half in which the Bobcats shot six of 13 from beyond the arc, their second half consisted of just two made three pointers on 10 attempts. 

“The three point shot is a great neutralizer in basketball,” Pitino said. “Teams can beat you if you don’t defend the three… Quinnipiac could have been the better team if we gave them the three ball”. 

The Gaels ended up winning with a final score of 76-61. The Bobcats players displayed some frustration due to losing this tightly contested battle. Center Kevin Marfo committed a flagrant foul in the final seconds when the game appeared to have already been decided. 

The coaches, however, had nothing but respect for each other. Pitino commented on the talent of opposing coach Baker Dunleavy. 

“Baker Dunleavy, when you play against his teams, they’re as tricky as any team I’ve coached against. He’s really really a terrific coach,” Pitino said. 

Dunleavy and the Bobcats will take those positives and look to emerge victorious against Marist Friday, Jan. 28 at the People’s United Center.