Senior Day Spoiled: Men’s Basketball Loses to Manhattan on Last Second Bucket, Blows 21-Point Lead

Connor Wilson

Playing in their final home game of the season, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team lost to the Manhattan Jaspers 72-70 on a buzzer-beater by fifth-year guard Ant Nelson after they blew a 21-point lead on what was Senior Day at M&T Bank Arena.

Nelson finished with a game-high 21 points for the Jaspers on 10-for-17 shooting. He also had eight rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes of action. On the final possession, Nelson caught the inbound pass and dribbled the clock down until he knocked down a floater in the lane just as time expired.

“Disappointing finish for us. I thought we were great in the first half,” Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “Senior night, our older guys came out and really set a tone for us which was terrific, but obviously in the second half you have to credit Manhattan.”

The loss spoiled the Senior Day festivities for the Bobcats, who honored four players – redshirt senior guards Savion Lewis and Matt Balanc, graduate student forward Ike Nweke, and graduate student guard Tyrese Williams. All four honorees were in the starting lineup, which is typical for Balanc and Nweke but not Lewis and Williams.

“Those guys are awesome,” Dunleavy said about the honorees. “They have chosen to be with us for four or five years, Ike one, but they pour their heart and soul into Quinnipiac. 

Balanc led the Bobcats with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting and was one of three Quinnipiac players in double figures, joined by Williams (14, 4-for-7 from three) and junior guard Dezi Jones (13). The frontcourt struggled, as Nweke and junior forward combined for just 10 points the entire game.

“It’s tough,” Dunleavy said about the struggles of his frontcourt. “I think (fifth-year forward Josh) Roberts does a great job at the rim and it makes it hard for those guys to have an impact offensively.”

Quinnipiac was cruising early on, as Williams and Balanc made triple after triple and the lead grew to the highest it was at 31-10. The teams then traded buckets for a stretch before the Jaspers closed the half on a 7-0 run to make it a 14-point game at 40-26.

Manhattan came out of the locker room with a purpose and soon enough were right back in the game. A 14-0 run headlined by some big dunks from Roberts cut the Quinnipiac lead to just 3 at 57-54. Freshman guard Raziel Hayun also made some timely threes during the comeback and finished with nine points.

When faced with their largest deficit of three points with just under three minutes to play, the Bobcats responded by going on a mini 5-0 run thanks to a Balanc layup and a Jones and-1 floater to go up by two, but they only scored one basket in the last two minutes.

Nelson proceeded to tie the game with just over two minutes to go, but Quinnipiac took the lead right back when Jones found Nweke underneath for the layup with 1:25 to go. From that point, Nelson scored the final four points of the contest including the game-winner.

“Obviously it’s tough to watch them (the Senior Day honorees) struggle right now in that locker room after a loss,” Dunleavy said. “They deserve to go out the right way.”

At the end of the day, the Bobcats continued a common trend in which they blow large leads after getting outscored 46-30 in the second half on Sunday.

“It’s a trend,” Dunleavy said. “We’ve had some big leads in the first half, but it’s certainly not one group of guys or one player. It’s a collective deal.”

Up next for Quinnipiac is the penultimate game of its regular season when the Bobcats make the short trek down south to take on their in-state rival Fairfield on Thursday.