Leading by 10 with 5:33 Quinnipiac appeared to be in perfect position to earn a season sweep of Manhattan, the team selected No. 1 in the preseason MAAC standings. The only problem was the Jaspers didn’t see it the same way. Manhattan stormed back, but the Bobcats showed excellent composure down the stretch as they pulled away in overtime for a 90-86 victory at Draddy Gymnasium on Sunday.
The victory, which brought the Bobcats to 7-3 and into a tie with Manhattan for third place in the MAAC, was even more unexpected because Quinnipiac was playing without starting forward Ousmane Drame. But Zaid Hearst, Umar Shannon and Ike Azotam picked up the slack. Each scored more than 20 points. Azotam (12 rebounds) and Hearst (10 rebounds) also helped QU win the battle on the boards 50-39.
Hearst and Shannon both scored a game-high 25 points and Azotam chipped in 21 points on 17 shots inside before fouling out. It was the first time in 12 years that the Bobcats had three 20-point scorers in the same game.
The Bobcats also got a big lift from Evan Conti. The junior from Bayside, NY played 31 minutes and scored a season-high 11 points along and grabbed seven rebounds. Conti’s layup in overtime got the Bobcats started and helped them control the extra five minutes as Quinnipiac few the lead to as many as eight points.
Unlike the last time these two teams met in Connecticut, the Jaspers were playing with a full roster. George Beamon was injured during the first game against the Bobcats. He played on Sunday; his second game back, but was held to just 12 points on 4-14 shooting from the field. Beamon also grabbed a team-high 12 boards for the Jaspers.
It was also a bittersweet game for the Jaspers’ senior center Rhamel Brown. A layup in the first half gave Brown 1,000 career points, but soon after he picked up his second foul. Brown played only four minutes in the first half as the Bobcats built up a six-point lead by the break. He made a big impact in the second half though and finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and four blocks in 26 minutes,
The Jaspers were called for 31 personal fouls in the game, slightly more than Quinnipiac’s 25. Both teams shot 28 free throws in regulation, but the Bobcats took 12 to Manhattan’s four in the extra session. Quinnipiac committed 19 turnovers, but Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello wanted his team to be even more aggressive. Of course, there’s a catch.
“We’re nowhere near as aggressive as we want to be,” Masiello said. “It’s not because of us. I don’t understand how there is contact 70-feet away that’s a foul, but when it’s 15-feet away that not a foul. I guess there’s different rules for different areas of the court that I have to look up in the manual.”
Still, the Jaspers could’ve finished the game off in regulation. Manhattan had two chances after two free throws by Shannon tied the game with 21 seconds remaining. All the Jaspers could manage though was a contested three by Michael Alvarado that bounced off the rim and out of bounds followed by an intercepted inbounds play with 0.6 seconds left in regulation. Neither look was ideal and served as a microcosm of how QU defended the Jaspers all game, packing the paint and forcing Manhattan to hit shots.
Even with that as the focus Manhattan still outscored Quinnipiac 40-30 in the paint, but the Jaspers shot 25-53 (47%) on two-point shots. The only time Manhattan appeared to find any rhythm offensively was during the 13-0 run that gave the Jaspers the lead in the second half. Manhattan scored six of its first seven points during the run in the paint. It was also aided by one of Shane Richards’ two threes.
Quinnipiac though showed excellent resolve. The teams traded the lead four times in the final three minutes, but when the overtime period tipped the Bobcats seemed most ready to go.
“We weren’t panicking,” said Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore. “I was probably panicking more than the guys were. I wasn’t happy with myself in the second half on the sidelines. I thought I could’ve been more composed. Our guys though never lost their composure.”
That composure helped Quinnipiac earn another key victory in a tight MAAC race Sunday.