Bobcats battle back, take down Rider 90-88 in season thriller


Photo: Nick Boyd

Mike King

The Quinnipiac Bobcats defeated the Rider Broncs in stunning fashion in front of a loud home crowd. Not one, but two overtimes were needed to decide this contest. 

Before tip off, redshirt senior guard Matt Balanc was recognized at center court for amassing the 1,000 career points mark. While Balanc had himself a great game, adding 17 points and 11 rebounds, the spotlight was on Dezi Jones.

Jones finished the game with 28 points, a new career high, shooting 8-16 from the field and 4-7 from beyond the three point line. When it came to the clutch moments in this one, you would find the basketball in Jones’ hands. 

When asked about how Jones was able to shine offensively, head coach Baker Dunleavy gave props to players like Tyrese Williams, Savion Lewis and JJ Riggins.

“Those guys who may not be heralded on the box score really changed the rhythm of the game, and allowed Dezi Jones to step up offensively the way he did,” Dunleavy said.

The Bobcats jumped out to an early lead in the first half, but fizzled out towards the end of the first half and in the beginning of the second. 

Dunleavy referenced “defensive intensity” as a driving factor towards the Bobcats’ comeback efforts, citing that the team was not as intense earlier in the game. 

In the fourth quarter, redshirt junior forward JJ Riggins came up huge, drawing an offensive foul.

Dunleavy spoke on this, saying that Riggins is “a winner” and “he just wants to be on the court and help us win.”

Another player who had a breakout game was sophomore guard Alexis Reyes, who had 12 points, including a crucial and-one three pointer that resulted in a four point play. 

“I feel great man,” Reyes said after playing 30 meaningful minutes. “When my opportunity came and my name was called, I tried to take advantage of it. Today was that day.” 

Reyes pointed out that the game was a back and forth affair, but the Bobcats were able to pull it out in the end. 

“As a team, we just stayed together and locked in,” Reyes said. “When we had to get stops, we got stops.”

After the game, Dezi Jones was asked about Reyes’s performance, to which he simply responded, “He was big time…he definitely played a big part tonight.” 

The referees set the tone early in the game, handing Rider head coach Kevin Baggett a technical foul just under three minutes into the game. 

A big theme early on was free throws. The Bobcats were getting to the line a decent amount in the first half, going 5-8 from the stripe. However, the second half was a much different story. Quinnipiac shot 26 free throws in the latter half of the game, making 19 of them. 

Getting into foul trouble was a huge mistake for Rider, as this allowed the Bobcats to stay in the game while slowing down the game. This stopped any momentum for the Broncs and allowed Quinnipiac to control the game. Rider had three players with at least four fouls. 

The Bobcats were active in the passing lanes tonight grabbing six steals as a team, with Jones and Balanc each having two of their own. 

Quinnipiac will have a week off to rest, and will be hoping to keep this momentum going when they defend home court against Manhattan on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m.