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Bobcats ride Kelly’s heroics to thrilling road win over Columbia

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn/Quinnipiac Bobcats Sports Network

By: Ryan Chichester

Baker Dunleavy must be proud of his recruiting class tonight.

Freshmen Jacob Rigoni and Rich Kelly scored 20 points each, including a game-winner from Kelly with four seconds left to steal a road win against Columbia 89-87 on Monday night.

With Dunleavy’s family in attendance, the first-year head coach showed off his young weapons which he recruited in the early months of his Bobcats’ tenure. Rigoni was electric from the floor in the first half to keep up with a Lions offense that was also scoring at will. It was Kelly who owned the second half, leading the charge all the way up until the Bobcats’ final possession.

After nailing a straightaway three to tie the game at 87 with just over a minute left, Kelly dribbled in place near midcourt on the Bobcats next possession, running out the shot clock before exploding on a right side drive to the hoop and converting on a tough layup with just four ticks left.

Columbia guard Mike Smith heaved a deep three-pointer at the buzzer, but the shot clanged off the front rim and Quinnipiac came away victorious in the offensive shootout.

Columbia has now lost its last four games by a combined 14 points.

Both teams shot over 50 percent from the floor, but it was the Bobcats who hit 17 of their 34 three-point attempts, with four of them coming from a red-hot Kelly in the second half.

“We probably shot our best tonight.” Dunleavy said after the game.

That’s quite the understatement.

Points were not hard to find in the first half, despite some of them coming from unexpected places. Rigoni displayed the best performance of his young career with 15 points, a career-high, in just the first half. The Australian native shot 5-for-7 from the field while knocking down three of his four three-point attempts in the first half to pace an early three-point onslaught from the Bobcats.

Andrew Robinson led the early charge from downtown, shooting 4-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first half, while Kelly hit a pair of threes on his first three attempts.

The Bobcats finished the first half shooting 10-for-18 from three, but trailed the Lions by two because of 10 turnovers and a hot start from Smith, who shot 6-for-8 from the floor in the opening period to lead all scorers with 15 points. He finished with 20.

Once again, Quinnipiac was forced to play heavy minutes without Chaise Daniels, who was on the bench with two early fouls. With their key inside threat riding the pine, the Bobcats decided to light it up from outside, eclipsing their season-high points total with over four minutes remaining in the game.

The Bobcats were raining threes all night, but the bucket of the game belonged to Cameron Young.

The senior guard drove the lane and threw down a vicious one-handed dunk at the expense of Lions junior Lukas Meisner, who could do nothing but throw an arm up to foul Young and pray he missed.

Young didn’t miss.

Instead, he finished the three-point play to stake his claim for the Bobcats’ play of the year so far.

Isaiah Washington hit a pair of threes to fittingly start the second half and keep the Bobcats’ offense going, but Smith and the Lions continued to have an answer in the back-and forth affair that saw 24 lead changes and 11 ties.

The final lead change came on the Kelly layup, who put the finishing touch on the best game of his collegiate career.

“He’s a freshman, but he’s our decision maker,” Dunleavy said. “He’s our leader.”

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