The Quinnipiac University men’s basketball team earned its fifth straight win on Thursday night, as the Bobcats outlasted Sacred Heart, 81-74, at the William H. Pitt Center. With the win, Quinnipiac improved to 9-5 in the Northeast Conference and moved into sole possession of fourth place in the standings. The Pioneers fell to 9-16 overall and 7-7 in league play.
Ike Azotam led a quartet of Bobcats in double-figures, as the 6-7 forward powered his way to 14 points and six rebounds. He was 3-of-9 from the floor, but went 8-for-8 from the line – including seven in the second half. Ousmane Drame finished with 13 points and eight rebounds; Shaq Shannon chipped in with 11 points and four rebounds; and Zaid Hearst knocked down three, threes and a free-throw for 10 points. James Ford, Jr. provided a huge lift in the second half with a perfect night from the floor (3-for-3) for nine points.
It was the Pioneers who jumped out to an early lead behind a tremendous performance on the offensive end. Shane Gibson had 20 points in the first half, Louis Montes added 14, and Sacred Heart made 64.3 percent of its shot attempts, including 6-of-12 from long range. However, Quinnipiac hung around due in large part to 10 SHU turnovers and surrendered just a four point deficit, 42-38, at halftime. Drame poured in eight points to lead the Bobcats at the break.
Sacred Hearst sustained its one-to-two possession lead through the midway point of the second half; but it was James Ford, Jr. who came off the bench to spark the Bobcats. Ford, Jr. scored nine of 11 points in a three minute stretch – which included a three-pointer that put Quinnipiac in front by one with 7:54 remaining. SHU went up by two with a desperation three from Phil Gaetano, but Azotam answered with a layup to tie the game up at 70 apiece – was fouled – and then completed the three-point-play for the lead.
The Pioneers hung around until the 1:43 mark, but Quinnipiac boasted a 7-0 run over the next 90 seconds – hitting 5-of-6 from the stripe – to close out the game and its seventh win in its last eight games. Gibson, who finished with a game-high 36 points, was held scoreless over the final 8:58 seconds (0-for-8) due in large part to a stellar display of defense from Shaq Shannon. Sacred Heart connected on just 34.3 percent of its shot attempts in the second half, opposed to 64.3 percent in the first half.
Quinnipiac controlled the glass, 40-34, and hauled in 19 offensive rebounds – which led to a 23-10 edge in second-chance points. The Bobcats had nine steals, one shy of a season-high, and forced 14 Pioneer turnovers. Quinnipiac totaled 15 points off of those turnovers.
With the win, the Bobcats snapped a three-game slide against the Pioneers. Furthermore, in what could have been the final meeting between the Constitution State rivals, the win grants Quinnipiac a 15-14 advantage in the Division I series.
Quinnipiac is back in action on Saturday, Feb. 23rd with Senior Day at the TD Bank Sports Center. The Bobcats welcome Bryant University for a 2 p.m. start, with a brief celebration of the senior class to take place before tip-off.
Fans interested in purchasing tickets can call the QU Ticket Office at 203-582-3905, visit the official website of Quinnipiac athletics, www.QuinnipiacBobcats.com or make a trip to the TD Bank Sports Center Ticket Office.