It’s Raining Threes: Rigoni leads Quinnipiac to upset win over Marist on opening night in Jersey


Photo: Connor Lawless

Noah Epstein

As the clock was about to strike midnight into the morning of Wednesday, March 9, the Quinnipiac Bobcats got their first win since Wednesday, Feb. 9 as they upset Marist 77-52 in the first round of the MAAC Tournament.

The No. 11 Bobcats were coming off six straight losses heading into their matchup against the 6-seeded Red Foxes. One of those six losses was against Marist on Feb. 20, in a game the Red Foxes shot 57.7% from three-point range. 

This game, however, was a completely different story.

Marist only made two three-pointers out of 17 attempts, meaning the Red Foxes shot 12% from beyond the arc. The Bobcats made 17 threes, more than any they’ve made throughout the season. 

They were led by forward Jacob Rigoni, who finished with 26 points and seven three-pointers. Rigoni led all scorers with nine points at halftime, but had an even better second half. Quinnipiac led 31-25 at the half, and then Rigoni hit two threes less than three minutes into the second half. His second three of the half came when he set an off-ball screen, got separation from his defender behind the three-point line, and then made the long shot. Right after the shot, Rigoni roared while running backwards, mouthguard halfway out of his mouth, yelling at his teammates on the bench to get them excited. That was his fifth three-pointer of the game and gave the Bobcats their largest lead of the game at the time, 12. 

Rigoni’s game worked so effectively because when the Quinnipiac guards got into the paint and the frontcourt did a good job setting screens, the Red Foxes had to decide whether to deny shooters like Rigoni or help on the pick-and-roll. When they decided to help on the pick-and-roll, the Bobcats made extra passes and Rigoni made them pay.

“We have a lot of trust in each other,” Rigoni said. “We work on that every day and when you believe in yourself, you’re gonna get positive outcomes like that.”

Quinnipiac guards Dezi Jones and Matt Balanc also had impressive performances. Jones had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and his eight assists made him just two assists shy of a triple-double. Balanc, the team’s leading scorer during the season, had 18 points on 6-10 shooting from the field. Jones and Balanc each made four three-pointers in the win.

Marist has still not won a MAAC Tournament game since 2015, when the No. 11 Red Foxes beat the No. 6 Bobcats, 80-74. This role reversal featured the upset as well, favoring Quinnipiac this time. Marist head coach John Dunne stressed how well the Bobcats moved the ball around and got the offense going compared to the Red Foxes.

“We just didn’t move the ball well enough and they did a really good job of taking away some reversals when we were getting into our drive and kick,” Dunne said.

The win snapped the Bobcats’ six game losing streak, at a time where a loss means elimination. The team talked a lot about every team being 0-0 now that the postseason tournament started. 

“Teams can break apart when they lose and stop trusting the process, but this group (is) sticking to it,” Rigoni said. “We’re taking it one day at a time, one possession at a time in the games, and when we play that way it’s a tough team to go against.”

The team started 0-0, and now it’s 1-0 in the tournament for the first time since 2018.

The Bobcats now have a matchup with the 3-seeded Siena Saints in the quarterfinals, a team they lost to twice this season. Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy loves the attitude his team has had so far, and hopes for that to continue throughout the tournament.

“I really am very impressed with this group and their ability to keep a positive mindset… a mindset that allows us to come in and work and keep grinding,” Dunleavy said.

The grind continues on Thursday, March 10 at 7 p.m. when Quinnipiac faces off against Siena in Atlantic City.