Written by Joey Zocco
Guard Umar Shannon led the way with a season-high 26 points as the Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s basketball team (15-8, 10-4 MAAC) defeated the Marist Red Foxes (9-15, 6-8 MAAC) 83-78, in the teams’ first ever meeting to capture their third straight win and their fourth win in their last six games.
The win moves the Bobcats from fourth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference into a tie for second place with Canisius and Manhattan, who did not play on Monday night. Head Coach Tom Moore said he was disappointed in his team’s focus tonight and he felt they dodged a bullet.
“Overall I really was not pleased with our energy,” said Head Coach Tom Moore. “I guess we played enough defense in the second half to get a lead. Umar Shannon individually bailed us out on offense down the stretch. This one doesn’t have the same feeling the nine other MAAC wins have had.”
Shannon, a graduate student playing out his final year of eligibility at Quinnipiac, added four assists to his 26 points, which came on on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor, and led the Bobcats to the win.
Junior Ousmane Drame had another double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Senior Ike Azotam and junior Zaid Hearst helped the Bobcats offensively by each scoring 15 points of their own. Drame was a factor on defense as well by also blocking seven shots.
“I think I am more focused defensively and more aware,” said Drame. “I do a great job noticing things before they happen. So just being aware, sliding my feet and making sure I get to the spot first.”
This game was all about runs. Quinnipiac was able to hold off a Marist team that came out shooting 83 percent from behind the arc and jumped out to an early 15-point lead over the Bobcats in the first eight minutes, 25-10.
Head Coach Tom Moore took a timeout with his team down 15 and Marist hitting every shot, especially the ones the Red Foxes’ took from behind the arc. Moore said he never lost faith in his guys even when they were down double-digits.
“Teams are funny, and these guys have gotten to the point where they have earned my trust,” said Moore. “You are never going to be up and on point for 40 minutes, but I didn’t expect [the first eight minutes].”
Quinnipiac came out of the timeout a different team and were able to get stops and block shots, something they had not been able to do prior to the break in the action. The Bobcats went on a run of their own and were able to take the lead for the first time in the game after an 18-2 run, 28-27.
Both teams finished the final six minutes of the half evenly and at halftime the game was tied at 40. Even though Quinnipiac had erased the deficit by halftime, Drame says his team knew what they had to do in the second half.
“You have to find ways to scratch your way up and get back into games,” said Drame. “We just had to get physical, rebound, start scoring the ball and digging down on defense.”
The second half was much closer, but still featured both teams going back and forth making runs. The Bobcats started the second half with a 6-0 run, which then was followed by a 12-0 run by Marist who would regain the lead, 52-46.
The teams went back and forth until Quinnipiac took the lead back for good, 63-61, on an Umar Shannon layup with 6:01 remaining in the game. Shannon would lead the Bobcats offensively by scoring twelve straight points once Quinnipiac regained the lead at the six-minute mark.
“I just wanted to give us a boost offensively,” said Shannon. “They were playing us tough and the big guys did a good job inside, but I just wanted to give us a spark from the guards.”
Shannon scored 18 of his season-high 26 points in the second half. The Bobcats would make 7-of-8 free throws in the final 35 seconds to secure the win.
Quinnipiac’s next game is on Thursday night, Feb. 13 when they take on the Fairfield Stags at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn. The Bobcats next home game is Sunday, Feb. 16 against St. Peter’s.