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Quinnipiac stops five-game losing streak with complete performance against UMass

Photo Courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Ryan Chichester

We had heard the story before. The Bobcats, clinging to a narrow lead, head to the free throw line to potentially seal a win. In their recent chances to clinch a victory at the charity stripe, the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team was unable to come through, resulting in scratching heads and lingering questions.

The frustrating narrative changed on Wednesday night.

Rich Kelly and Cameron Young hit the Bobcats’ final four free throw attempts of the game to seal a 68-66 win over the University of Massachusetts, ending Quinnipiac’s five game losing streak.

The Bobcats shot 81.5 percent from the free throw line on 27 attempts, while the defense held the Minutemen to just five free throw attempts in the Bobcats’ best defensive effort of the season.

“We were as close to 40 minutes as we’ve been all year,” head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “It probably wasn’t exactly 40, but it was as close as we’ve been all year.”

The Bobcats have been plagued by incomplete efforts for much of the young season, especially after a dreadful first half ruined any chance at a comeback against Maine on Monday night. The Bobcats’ fortunes finally changed on what will be their last home game for a month.

After slow offensive starts early in the season, Chaise Daniels came out firing and scored the Bobcats’ first six points of the game along with a block on the other end to ensure the Bobcats would not be doomed to another slow start. His teammates would eventually follow suit.

An Andrew Robinson three (assisted by his brother Aaron) sparked a 9-0 Bobcats run to give them a 17-10 lead midway through the first half. The Minutemen quickly responded with six straight points of their own.

C.J. Anderson drilled a corner three after being fouled by Young, and converted the four-point play to cut the Quinnipiac lead to 29-27 with four minutes left in the first.

The Bobcats responded to the four-point play with a 9-2 run highlighted by four more points from Daniels, who was scoring at will beneath the basket as UMass big man Rashaan Halloway sat on the bench with early foul concerns. Daniels finished the first half shooting 5-for-7 from the field, and was one of four Bobcats to finish in double figures.

UMass knocked down a pair of threes to open the second half and pull within four, but the Bobcats were able to hold their narrow lead for most of the final 20 minutes thanks to the Robinson brothers, who combined for 19 points off the bench while shooting 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.

“We’ve been doing that since we came out of the womb, playing basketball together,” Aaron Robinson said. “Feeding off him and playing together and knowing we’ll be there for each other, it’s fun to be out there and playing together.”

After UMass forced Daniels into some foul trouble of his own, they finally took the lead on a Holloway dunk with 5:09 remaining in the second half. It was their first lead since they held a 10-8 advantage just four minutes into the game.

The Bobcats took the lead back while UMass struggled with their own foul troubles, putting Quinnipiac in the bonus with seven minutes remaining and sending the Bobcats to the line on back-to-back possessions. The Bobcats would hit all four free throws to take a three-point lead.

Despite trailing by just two with 27 seconds left, UMass decided to foul Kelly after crossing midcourt, and the freshman knocked down both free throws to extend the lead back to four.

UMass would quickly respond on a tip-in by Holloway, but Young would hit both of his free throws on the next possession to keep Quinnipiac in control.

After another quick bucket by Holloway, Young would elude the UMass press on the ensuing inbounds pass to let the clock run out and finish the Bobcats’ most impressive performance of the season so far.

“I’m happier for these guys that we can say we won, but as a coaching staff throughout the game, we were looking at each other like ‘okay, we’re getting better at all these things,’” Dunleavy said. “That’s the exciting part.”

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