First drafts are usually full of flaws.
That’s one concept the Quinnipiac Bobcats can cling to after the 94-70 shellacking they endured at the hands of America East favorite Vermont on Saturday afternoon. It was the first appearance for five Bobcats at the Division I level, but far from what was envisioned.
Quinnipiac, among the worst in the nation on the offensive end of the ball last season, entered this one with a concerted effort to play more of an up-tempo style.
“I do think going into this year, we set up athletically a little bit better to play faster on offense,” head coach Tom Moore said in the offseason. “I think we have a little more depth and a little more athleticism to try to do some of those things.”
It was a concept that worked well for fellow MAAC member and Connecticut rival Fairfield last season, but the Bobcats’ first attempt at emulating the “Runnin’ Stags” was far from elegant.
Quinnipiac began the contest with some of that promised energy, netting 10 points in the first 4:17, but then allowed an 11-0 Catamount run from which the Bobcats would never recover. Despite the quick start, Moore’s squad ended the first half with just 25 points, and scored 0.93 points per possession for the game.
More troubling than the sudden offensive drought were the Bobcats’ struggles on defense throughout the game. Vermont ended the afternoon with an impressive 1.24 points per possession, and shot 61% from the field. Add to that an improbable 40-26 Catamount advantage on the glass, normally Quinnipiac’s calling card, and you have the recipe for a rout.
It was just the fourth time in Moore’s near decade-long tenure the Bobcats were out-rebounded by double digits. Two of the previous occurrences came last season against Iona and Siena. Quinnipiac has built its brand on rebounding, finishing among the top two teams in the country in total rebounding each of the last six years and leading the nation for three consecutive seasons from 2012-13 to 2014-15.
“We’re going to be Quinnipiac, and Quinnipiac basketball is rebounding the basketball,” senior guard Daniel Harris said following Saturday’s game. “Being minus-14 on the glass is unacceptable in any game, even if that wasn’t our strong suit. We’ve got to be better rebounding from the guard position.”
Four Bobcats scored in double figures, including two newcomers in Reggie Oliver and Mikey Dixon. Oliver led the squad with 15 while Dixon, a true freshman, added 10. Junior forward Chaise Daniels posted 11, while Harris contributed 10 of his own.
Although the Bobcats debuted an assortment of newcomers, the most impressive fresh face on the court was that of Vermont’s Anthony Lamb. The 6-foot-6-inch, 227-pound freshman already looks like a seasoned veteran and led all scorers with 23 points. Other Catamounts to reach double figures included Payton Henson with 19, Trae Bell-Haynes with 16, and Ernie Duncan with 13.
“He’s something else,” Vermont coach John Becker said of Lamb. “The production is really impressive, especially for a kid in the first real college basketball game of his career. The sky is the limit for that kid.”
Moving on from a disappointing season debut isn’t new for the Bobcats. Last year, Quinnipiac fell to Sacred Heart by 12 in the final edition of the Connecticut 6. The Bobcats have nine days to prepare for their contest against Columbia, but will take the task of incorporating a slew of new players one day at a time.
“We’re a new team,” Harris reminded everyone. “We’ve got six new guys. I think this team is more offensively talented than last year, but it’s going to take time. We’ve got 29 more games to go, so it’s going to get better, I can tell you that.”
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.