Quinnipiac vs. Dartmouth: What we learned

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Ryan Chichester

Chaise Daniels and the Bobcats rushed to midcourt to celebrate their first win of the season after Daniels swatted away a potential game-winning shot to start the season on a high note. Daniels’ heroics highlights a game with plenty to unpack.

Let’s preface this by stating the obvious: the season is incredibly young. In fact, it was just born yesterday. Any stats or trends from the Bobcats’ first win can be shrugged off as outliers in the coming weeks, or could be the start of a storyline. Regardless, this is what we learned from the first win of the Baker Dunleavy era.

You can bank on Chaise

Well, eventually you could. The senior and centerpiece of the Bobcat offense took time to heat up, starting just 1-for-6 from the field, but Daniels eventually settled down and led the Bobcats to a thrilling victory. Despite the cold beginning, Daniels finished with a game-high 21 points while shooting 50 percent from the field.

“I know that I have to keep playing for my teammates,” Daniels said.

Daniels kept playing and contributing until the final horn, when he blocked Dartmouth senior Miles Wright from behind to deny what could have been a game-winning shot for the Big Green and a devastating loss for the Bobcats. Instead, Daniels sealed the first victory of Dunleavy’s career as a head coach.

“We talk about attitude a lot,” Dunleavy said after the game. “Trying to bounce back from our mistakes and just keep grinding.”

Daniels didn’t just grind. He thrived in crunch time. With the game tied inside the final two minutes, Daniels pulled down a big offensive rebound and dropped in a layup to give the Bobcats the lead with 1:12 to go. Guilien Smith made a pair of free throws on the other end for Dartmouth to tie the game once again. Out of a Bobcats timeout, freshman Rich Kelly missed a layup, but Daniels was there to haul in another offensive rebound before slamming home a dunk to give the Bobcats the lead once again inside the final minute.

His block on Wright was the exclamation point on win that was littered with Daniels’ fingerprints. It will have to be that way for much of the season if the Bobcats are to have success. For at least one day, Daniels seemed up to the challenge.

Bobcats bend, don’t break

Dartmouth’s Brendan Barry nailed a three-pointer inside the final five minutes of the game to pull the Big Green even with the Bobcats for the first time since the near midway point of the first half. A pair of Kelly free throws gave the Bobcats the lead again, which they would relinquish numerous times, but would never trail. In fact, the Bobcats were playing from behind for just 2:29 the entire game. Dartmouth clawed their way back to a tie four different times in the final five minutes of the second half, but when they looked to complete the comeback, the Bobcats were there to deny it.

A lot can be dissected for the Bobcats in their second half performance. Pessimists can see the Bobcats boasting a comfy 16-point lead in the second half before letting Dartmouth storm back on a 12-0 run make things way more interesting than Dunleavy and the Bobcats would have liked.

For the optimists out there, they saw a young team that could have let the game slip away with their big lead, and instead made big shots and defensive stops to ensure a win on their home floor.

Runs happen in basketball, and Dartmouth’s second half surge put the Bobcats’ poise to the test. They passed with flying colors.

First-year poise and pitfalls

Contributions of first-year Bobcats were all over Quinnipiac’s win on Saturday. Kelly, a freshman, made three huge free throws down the stretch, one that would prove to be the game-winning shot with four seconds remaining. Kelly struggled a bit from the floor, shooting 3-for-10 from the field, but he saw the floor well and dished out nine assists to keep the offense moving.

Playing in his first game as a Bobcat, senior transfer Isaiah Washington finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks, while nailing his first three-point attempts of the game to give the Bobcats a jump-start while Daniels was taking time to find his groove.

Freshman and Australian native Jacob Rigoni knocked down two triples of his own, coming off the bench and finishing with eight points and five rebounds. Daniels may have led the team to victory, but the newcomers followed close behind.

Of course, the youth of the Bobcats showed throughout the game as well. Quinnipiac committed 15 turnovers compared to Dartmouth’s six. Ball security and discipline will likely be a focal point for Dunleavy heading into the Bobcats’ matchup with Brown Monday night, but don’t expect Dunleavy to put too much emphasis on the turnovers, or anything for that matter.

“It’s the first game, so nobody is a finished product,” Dunleavy said after the game. We’re looking forward to a short day tomorrow and learning by watching film.”

Turnovers are often a side effect to a young team playing together for the first time. Fifteen turnovers are hardly ideal, but walking away with a win despite all the giveaways may be an even more telling storyline.

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