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Black Bears catch fire from downtown as the Bobcats’ comeback effort falls short

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Ryan Chichester

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team turned a 26-point deficit into an intense finish in the final minutes, but its heroic effort on Superhero Day in Hamden came up short as the Maine Black Bears held on for a 78-72 win to deal the Bobcats their fifth straight loss.

Maine, searching for its first win of the season, appeared to be in command with an 18-point lead with two minutes remaining, until Andrew Robinson (17 points) and Chaise Daniels (24 points) led a furious rally to cut the lead to four with 26 seconds left.

“We have no quitters in that locker room,” senior Alain Chigha said. “Every single one of them is ready to fight. There’s no quit in us.”

The Bobcats didn’t quit, but the hole they dug themselves in the first half was too much to overcome.

“Not the way we want to start any game,” head coach Baker Dunleavy said of the slow start. “They made a lot of shots, but our defensive intensity wasn’t the same in the first half. Proud of our guys the way they battled, but that story will get old if we don’t fix some things.”

Maine did hit a lot of shots. A whole lot of shots. While the Bobcats fans celebrated Superhero Day in the stands, the Black Bears found a superhuman ability to connect on three-pointers that have plagued them so far this season.

Coming into the game shooting just 34 percent from the floor, the Black Bears drilled six of their first seven three-point attempts to sprint out to a 24-7 lead. Meanwhile, the Bobcats had no answer on the offensive end, starting 0-for-5 from downtown and just 4-for-16 from the field compared to Maine’s 12-for-18 clip.

Bobcats fans waited for the expected return to normal from Maine’s perimeter shooters, but it never came. Maine finished the first half shooting 10-for-14 from downtown to take a 46-23 lead into the locker room for a break that the humming Black Bears wanted no part of.

Vernon Lowndes, who should be nicknamed “Bullseye” for his Superhero Day performance, shot 7-for-7 from the field and hit all five of his three-point attempts to pace Maine’s three-point assault and finish with a team-high 20 points.

Maine entered Sunday’s game shooting 21 percent (20-for-96) from three in its last four games. Their season-high for three-pointers in a game was 11 against Boston College. They hit 10 triples in the first 19 minutes against the Bobcats and shot 71-percent from deep in the first half.

Quinnipiac forced 26 turnovers, but were able to turn them into points on a consistent basis. Still, they wouldn’t go quietly.

Robinson hit a pair of threes to cut the lead to 11, while Daniels continued to flex his muscle at the rim like the Incredible Hulk, converting beneath the basket and earning multiple trips to the free throw line to eat away at the Maine lead.

Looking for a dagger, Maine turned to the man who wouldn’t miss. Lowndes buried a three-pointer to put Maine up 13, then converted on an old-fashioned three-point play his next time down the court to put Maine back up 18.

Still, the Bobcats refused to go down. Robinson and Kelly hit back-to-back threes while Daniels hit another three free throw, missing one but eventually corralling the rebound and driving in for a layup to bring the Bobcats within seven.

Kelly missed a free throw with less than a minute remaining, but again the Bobcats snagged the offensive board and converted it into a Robinson three-point play, and the lead was down to five with just 36 seconds left.

Robinson continued his hot afternoon by hitting a tightly-contested three to bring the Bobcats within four, but the Black Bears hit their free throws and held off what would have been a monumental comeback by the Bobcats.

“I’m really proud of the effort and the mentality to just keep battling,” Dunleavy said. “But that only gets you so far.”

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