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Quinnipiac vs. Niagara preview

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Ryan Chichester

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team heads to Niagara on Thursday looking to halt its two-game losing streak and climb back into the MAAC’s top-five after being leapfrogged by Manhattan over the weekend.

Standing in the Bobcats’ way is the Purple Eagles and their high-flying offense that stymied the Bobcats with a 22-5 run in the second half when the two teams met in Hamden in mid-January. Quinnipiac had held its own on its home floor before the Niagara offense showed its potency with an 81-73 win.

Let’s avoid delving into the obvious necessity for Quinnipiac, which will be to somehow slow down a Niagara offense that averages 82.8 points per game. We already know this. Instead, we’ll focus on a pair of Bobcats who will have to stand out to give Quinnipiac any chance of an upset.

Jacob ‘Three’-goni

Quinnipiac’s prized freshman will have to live up to his nickname to get the Bobcats back in the win column. Rigoni’s first career start came in the team’s first matchup with Niagara, but the MAAC’s three-point percentage leader connected on just two of his seven three-pointers in the home loss. However, in five games since, Rigoni is shooting a ridiculous 56-percent (15-for-27) from beyond the arc, which has helped the Bobcats stay in close games with offensively superior teams of late. Rigoni started red-hot from three on Sunday against Rider, hitting his first three triples, but cooled off in the second half as the Rider defense began to pressure Rigoni at the perimeter.

Rigoni is crucial to the Bobcats’ chances on Thursday, and the argument could be made that he is the team’s most valuable offensive presence. It will take a lot of offense to keep up with Niagara, and getting Rigoni open looks from three is the team’s best bet to keep the offense humming. Whether it’s through a barrage of off-ball screens or high pick-and-rolls to get Rigoni open, he needs to be a top priority for Baker Dunleavy and company.

Of course, Rigoni could use some help. The Bobcats hope to have their second-best deep threat in Andrew Robinson back on Thursday, after missing the past two games with a foot injury.

Raise the play of Chaise

Getting Rigoni open is one challenge for the Bobcats. Getting Rigoni the ball once he is open will be the next obstacle to overcome, and that’s where Chaise Daniels comes in.

A big question heading into Thursday will be what version of Daniels will show up, especially after the senior labored through a tough day against Rider on Sunday, when he committed seven turnovers against a Broncs team that is hardly recognized for their defensive skill. Daniels had an open Rigoni at the perimeter multiple times on Sunday, but elected to attack the basket against two, sometimes three defenders, resulting in frustrating turnovers and empty offensive possessions as the Broncs pulled away.

The performance by Daniels was a step back after his strong showing at Iona last Friday night, and the Bobcats will need him to bounce back against the Purple Eagles, who he scored 16 points against while recording zero turnovers. If Daniels looks to pass first, perhaps out to an open Rigoni when a double-team comes, the Bobcats will be in good shape, at least on the offensive end.

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