There’s a reason why you should never arrive late to a sporting event, and Quinnipiac proved why on Monday night.
The Bobcats converted on their first eight attempts of the game, five of them from behind the arc, as they pulled out to a commanding 23-4 lead in the first 5:20 of their contest against the Iona Gaels and never looked back. Both teams now stand at 3-1 in MAAC play.
The Bobcats rode their hot start to a 49-27 advantage going into halftime. Quinnipiac’s 49 points were a first-half high this season while Iona’s 27 were a first-half low.
“Coach emphasized how big of a game it was and we all wanted to rise to the challenge,” said junior guard Zaid Hearst of the team’s hot start. “We all came out with energy and we all just wanted to do our part. You know, just play strong, play fast and rebound the ball.”
The Gaels came out in the second half more aggressive, driving to the basket with efficiency and drawing fouls. Although Quinnipiac held a comfortable lead throughout, they made just one field goal in the final nine minutes of the game, which allowed Iona to trim the lead to 10 on a pair of David Laury free throws with 2:44 remaining. However, it was too little too late as the Bobcats made their free throws down the stretch to hold off the Gaels.
“That’s an incredible offensive basketball team we just played that does not stop coming at you the whole game,” said head coach Tom Moore. “I thought in the second half it’s hard to strike a balance sometimes against a team as dangerous and quick-shooting as this team.”
Quinnipiac was paced by a career performance from Hearst, whose 23 points were the most he has put up as a Bobcat. Hearst also pulled down 11 rebounds to complete his sixth double-double of the year. Ike Azotam also achieved a double-double, posting 18 points and 15 rebounds as well as registering 4 blocked shots. Umar Shannon added 12 points and led the team in assists with 5, while Kasim Chandler contributed 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench.
The Gaels were led by a stellar effort from sophomore A.J. English who led all scorers with 27 points, 19 of them coming in the second half. Tre Bowman added 15 points off the bench while Laury had a solid game inside against the powerful Quinnipiac frontcourt, scoring 10 points and pulling down 6 rebounds.
Iona’s Sean Armand was held scoreless in the first half, but finished the game with 10 points. The senior guard, who ranked 16th in the nation in scoring entering the evening, was held without a made 3-point basket for the first time since last year’s game at Indiana State on Feb. 23, 2013.
The rebounding battle played out just as one would have predicted. Quinnipiac dominated on the boards once again, posting a 50-27 advantage overall. The Bobcats grabbed 20 offensive rebounds for the second straight game and earned 16 of their points off second-chance opportunities.
The Bobcats have not trailed in their last 80 minutes of play, controlling the pace of play for much of their previous contest at Monmouth and getting out to a fast start against Iona. However, their toughest test comes Thursday evening as they play host to preseason MAAC favorite Manhattan. The matchup against the Jaspers will be broadcast regionally on SNY at 7:30 p.m.
Vincent Simone will be chronicling Quinnipiac’s move to the MAAC and helping cover the conference this season for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone