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Griffs send Bobcats back down to earth with 82-74 win

Photo Courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Ryan Chichester

While the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team’s 2-0 start in MAAC play was highly encouraging, their defeat to Canisius on Friday night was a sign that there is still plenty of work to do.

The Golden Griffs rode a first half shooting surge to an 82-74 win, denying the Bobcats their first 3-0 start in conference play in 18 years.

“We’re proud we didn’t quit,” head coach Baker Dunleavy said after the game. “Canisius just executed at a higher level than us…they’re really hard to guard. They made our life pretty tough in the first half.”

The Bobcats turned a 14-point drubbing into a narrow five-point deficit within the first three minutes of the second half, and would cut it to two with just over five minutes remaining, but the Griffs absorbed the blows and shot their way to a road win.

The ending narrative would have been considered lunacy in the opening minutes of the game. Quinnipiac jumped out to an early 5-0 lead while the Griffs began the game shooting just 3-for-12 from the floor, their cold shooting start matching the freezing temperatures outside of Lender Court, which had reached single digits by the opening tip.

Turns out, Canisius just needed some time to thaw in the warmth of the arena.

The Griffs used an 11-2 run to erase the Bobcats’ early lead, and finished the half hitting 15 of their final 22 field goal attempts while shooting 50-percent from beyond the arc. MAAC Player of the Week Jermaine Crumpton led the shooting spree by hitting on all three of his three-point attempts.

With just over three minutes remaining in the first half, Crumpton and Isaiah Reese nailed back-to-back threes to push the Griffs’ lead to 14, which held until the halftime whistle. The Bobcats’ fast start suddenly felt like it happened back when they last started conference play with three straight wins.

Staying true to the norm of Dunleavy’s Bobcats this season, Quinnipiac fought back, opening the second half on a 7-0 run. Abdulai Bundu grabbed a hustle rebound off a missed free throw from Cam Young and heaved a pass back out to Young, who drilled a three to cap off the run and contribute to his game-high 23 points. Just minutes later, Bundu threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk in traffic to ignite the home crowd and trim the Griffs’ lead to five.

“Not much has to be said in the locker room,” Bundu said of the Bobcats’ halftime adjustments. “We knew what we had to do in the second half.”

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, there was not much they could do about several of the Griffs’ counter-punches at the end of every Quinnipiac run. The Griffs seemed to have an answer every time down the court, with many responses coming by way of deep three-pointers that were virtually unguardable.

After the Bundu throwdown, Malik Johnson nailed a fadeaway three to put the Griffs back up by eight, followed shortly by a Reese triple from even further out. Reese had a foot on the Bobcat logo near midcourt as he drained the shot, to the disbelief of the Bobcats. Reese finished with 20 points, hitting four of his six shots from downtown.

“We can’t really do anything about them,” Young said of the deep threes from Canisius. “They were hitting them, and it was something we just had to deal with.”

Despite hot shooting from the Griffs and a tough night from the floor for the Bobcats (who shot just 35-percent from the field), Quinnipiac clawed back once more. Bundu snagged another hard-fought offensive rebound and found Jacob Rigoni in the corner for his first triple of the game, and Canisius would be called for a foul under the basket on a shove to Young’s back. Young hit both free throws to put the finishing touches on a five-point swing. Rigoni would nail another corner three shortly after to pull the Bobcats within a pair. They would get no closer than that.

Leading by five with just under two minutes left, Crumpton blew past Bundu for an easy layup to finish with 19 points and stretch the Canisius lead back to seven and take the air out of the Bobcats’ comeback effort.

Chaise Daniels chipped in 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting for the Bobcats in his second game back from personal leave, but didn’t factor into the second half effort.

“I just wanted to have as much quickness out there as I could,” Dunleavy said of Daniels’ limited second half minutes. “It wasn’t anything he did wrong, it’s just the way it unfolded.”

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