Men’s Basketball Defeats Rider for Second Time in Six Days, Completes Season Sweep

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Photos: Kaylyn Terry

Connor Wilson

Playing for the second time in six days, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team defeated the Rider Broncs 73-67 on Wednesday evening at the People’s United Center to finish the season sweep and secure their third consecutive win.

Both sides came out of the gates fast to start the game, with the Broncs holding a 13-7 lead at the first media timeout. All seven of the Bobcats’ points belonged to junior guard Matt Balanc, who in just his third start of the season scored 16 points on 5-11 shooting and grabbed five rebounds.

Balanc has seen an increased workload this season as opposed to years past, averaging double the minutes per game from last season and an increase of over 11 points per game.

“I used to come into the season kind of, a little unknowing of what I could do,” Balanc said. “This season I really worked on my game, I know what I can do and I go out and do it. I have trust in my teammates, and they have trust in me to get stuff done.”

The Broncs continued to maintain their lead and had a 19-14 lead at the 10-minute mark of the first half. This changed very quickly as the Bobcats surged on a 19-0 run and took a 14 point lead. 14 of the 19 points were scored by graduate student Jacob Rigoni and junior Brendan McGuire. McGuire also had his third consecutive game with seven assists and only turned the ball over once.

A three pointer as time expired by Rider senior guard Jeremiah Pope cut the Bobcat deficit to just three at the break and the Broncs continued their run into the second half and retook the lead at 53-52 on a jumpshot by junior forward Mervin James.

James carried the workload all throughout for the Broncs, scoring a game-high 24 points on 8-15 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds. Joining him in double figures was senior forward Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson with 13 points and Pope with 10.

The game proved to be a game of runs however, as the Bobcats finished on a 21-7 run to secure the victory. Graduate student forward Kevin Marfo scored a team-high eight points on that run and finished with 16 points and 17 rebounds, but tied a season high with seven turnovers.

“I’ve been trying to focus on being smart with the ball,” Marfo said. “I think that’s one of the things that I have to be more aware of, it can’t be happening, especially as a guy my size. I have to protect the ball and make the right plays.”

Despite the turnovers, Marfo made some crucial plays down the stretch including hitting both of his free throws with 53.1 seconds remaining and grabbing offensive rebounds down the stretch, much to the praise of head coach Baker Dunleavy.

“Kevin is an integral part of our team,” Dunleavy said. “I’m really proud of the way he’s grown and gotten better, not only as a player, but as a competitor, as a man. We do not win that game if in the second half especially (unless) he comes up with key offensive rebounds and tip-ins.”

Up next for the Bobcats is the third of four straight home games, this one against the Iona Gaels, a team that sits atop the MAAC standings at 7-0 in conference and 15-3 overall. The Bobcats will look to be the first conference team to knock off the Gaels at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23 at the People’s United Center.