Quinnipiac used a 10-0 run at the end of the first half to pull away from Rider and defeat the Broncs 82-61 Saturday afternoon at the TD Bank Sports Center.
The Bobcats were led by 21 points and 12 rebounds from Ike Azotam for the senior forward’s 40th career double-double.
Both teams traded leads eight times in the first half, and Rider held a 27-24 advantage with just over two minutes remaining in the first half. However, Quinnipiac finished the half on a 10-0 run punctuated by a Zaid Hearst 3-pointer in the waning seconds, his first field goal of the game. The Bobcats opened the second half with the same momentum, going on an 18-7 run to stretch their lead to 52-34 just four minutes into the half. From there, the Bobcats went on cruise control, eventually ballooning their lead to 22 deep into the game.
The Broncs’ trio of Daniel Stewart, Jimmie Taylor, and Anthony Myles, who combined for 66 points in Rider’s 90-78 victory over Quinnipiac two months ago, were held to a combined 34 points this time around. Stewart led the Broncs with 15 points.
“I think there was a little more passion about stopping those three in particular than there might have been the first game,” said Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore. “I think they’re all just names and faces the first time you play them. There’s more drive and desire to stop those three in particular after they lit you up the last game, so it was a little more personal I think for our whole team towards Stewart, Myles, and Jimmie Taylor in particular.”
Quinnipiac had their best shooting game of the year from behind the arc, going 9 of 16 (56.3%) from deep including three apiece from Hearst and Shaq Shannon. The Bobcats’ effective shooting saw them score at a clip of 1.34 points per possession, their second best mark in MAAC play.
“We’re really tough to guard when the ball goes in from out there,” Moore said. “When they go in, we’re tough to guard because then we stretch you a little bit and then you can’t give as much attention to our two bigs. Our guys work at it. We’re not a great outside shooting team by any stretch, but they work very hard at it.”
After out-rebounding the Broncs by just three in their first meeting in Lawrenceville, the Bobcats asserted themselves on the boards early on Saturday. Quinnipiac pulled down 44 rebounds to the Broncs’ 30, including 23 on the offensive side of the glass.
“Last couple of games we haven’t been on the glass like we wanted to,” Azotam said. “We just wanted to come out here and be aggressive. Coach was preaching that they [Rider] lost on the boards in their previous game by 19, so we wanted to set the same type of tempo today.”
Frustration set in for Kevin Baggett and his Broncs early in the second half as Quinnipiac made their push. Rider was called for 21 fouls during the game to just nine for the Bobcats. Baggett let his frustration be heard and was whistled for a technical just 3:30 into the second half.
“I am bothered by the fact that there were nine fouls on the game against a team that’s very physical and does a lot of shoving,” Baggett said. “I’m normally not a belly-acher on this stuff, but nine fouls. That’s a joke.”
Quinnipiac saw five players score in double figures, led by the game-high effort from Azotam. Hearst was second on the team with 13, while both Umar and Shaq Shannon ended the game with 12 points. Evan Conti added 10 points off the bench and handed out four assists. Ousmane Drame returned to the starting lineup and fell just shy of a double-double, posting nine points, nine rebounds, and four blocks.
Stewart’s 15 points led Rider, but freshman Jimmie Taylor posted a strong game with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. Khalil Alford provided a spark off the bench, finishing the game with 10 points and five rebounds.
Quinnipiac has a quick turnaround as they play host to Marist Monday night. The contest will mark the first ever meeting between the Bobcats and the Red Foxes. Tip-off is set for 7 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.