Home struggles continue for Quinnipiac in MAAC opener against Monmouth, Bobcats fall to 1-5

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Home struggles continue for Quinnipiac in MAAC opener against Monmouth, Bobcats fall to 1-5

Dylan Fearon

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Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Dylan Fearon

Just 63 seconds into Quinnipiac men’s basketball’s game against Monmouth, Bobcats starting point guard Reggie Oliver had to be subbed out due to an illness he has been battling for a few days.

That should’ve been the first indication that Thursday was not Quinnipiac’s night.

The Bobcats offense struggled midely, shooting just 36 percent en route to a 91-72 loss to the defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season champions.

Monmouth, known for its up-tempo offense, Cinderella story and hilarious bench mob from a year ago showed a different side against Quinnipiac; a defensive-minded side that was going to stymie the Bobcats after their impressive showing at the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Fla.

“I’ve been saying we’re going to win because of our defense and I told our guys ‘we’ve been up here in the past and had long droughts where we didn’t score and they’d get up 15 or 18,’” Monmouth head coach King Rice said. “That happens. Don’t worry about it guys our defense just one stop at a time will get us back in the game.’ I think our guys took it kind of personally to really guard tonight because we saw them win against Indiana State, we saw they played Seton Hall very tough and Kiss was very good in those games.”

When preparing for Monmouth, teams are most likely creating game plans to stop All-MAAC first teamer Justin Robinson, former Oklahoma Sooner Je’lon Hornbeak, sharpshooter Micah Seaborn or 6-foot-10 big man Chris Brady. But the star was Hawks guard Collin Stewart, who scored 14 of his game-high 20 points including four of his five three’s off the bench in the first half.

The senior from Glenville, NY was a big reason Monmouth went into the locker room up 45-34.

“My mindset coming into the game was play defense and get rebounds,” Stewart said. “My shots fell so I just let it happen.”

Hornbeak, who finished with 18 points and five threes of his own, was feeling it from deep early, so he continued to launch from down town.

“You don’t really think about how you’re going to shoot before you just have to come out and play. Today shots were falling so I just kept shooting.”

Down 11 at the break, it would only take one scoring run from Quinnipiac to get back into it, but the exact opposite ensued. Monmouth started the second half on an 18-6 run, blossoming its lead to 23.

“The start the second half was horrendous, horrendous,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “And Monmouth is terrific. We made a really undisciplined play on offense, then on defense, then on offense, then on defense and the lead go to 17 in the blink of an eye. We have a lot of things we need to work on.”

As good as Monmouth’s defense was at times (holding Quinnipiac to under 40 percent from the field and forcing 18 turnovers), its offense lived up to its big billing. The Hawks had four players in double-digit scoring figures, three with at least 17 points and as a team drained 14 threes.

“I’ve been saying the whole time, I’ve got a bunch of kids that can really, really shoot, that would be known as shooters,” Rice said. “That’s Justin, that’s Collin, that’s Louie, that’s Je’lon, that’s Micah for sure. My problem is I let everybody shoot when they feel open. So sometimes they come a little quick and it’s probably not the best shot for them at the time, but tonight we moved it around and moved it around and truly shared the ball. And when these guys get open looks, they’re going to make them.”

Quinnipiac’s struggles might not have come as a surprise to some. The Bobcats were 9-21 last year and lost six players, including three of its primary backcourt men. Moore brought in six new players to replace that, including freshmen Peter Kiss and Mikey Dixon, who have been bright spots all season long. Dixon dropped 21 points against Indiana State last Sunday, and 18 against Monmouth. Kiss had his coming out party in Orlando as well, scoring 19 points on Gonzaga on Thanksgiving and then 18 against Seton Hall last Friday.

But some of the returners expected to fill the voids of Giovanni McLean and James Ford, Jr. have not contributed offensively as much as Moore would like. Daniel Harris had just five points one one-of-eight shooting and Abdulai Bundu could only muster up one point on two field goal attempts.

Moore is convinced they will be better down the road.

“Danny will get there, he’ll get there,” Moore said. “He missed some open shots tonight and he was really beating himself up over that. I don’t think he gives himself quite as much credit for how effective he can be putting it on the deck and going by guys… (Abdulai Bundu) had the loud game against Indiana State. The Gonzaga night was not even fair to play them against their size as a four man. That was just not going to be a night for him. I think what he’s got to do to maybe get more minutes, which will get him more shots is to be play defensively a little bit better.”

Quinnipiac now finds themselves at 1-5 this season and 0-3 at home. Its next test is also at the TD Bank Sports Center, as Marist comes to town, which boasts two big time scorers in Khalid Hart and Brian Parker.

Moore knows the challenges his team will face against the Red Foxes.

“They’re extremely unique preparation,” Moore said. “They’re like a Hartford preparation, they’re like a Holy Cross preparation. But in the MAAC, no one plays the way they play offensively. Our focus is going to have to be really good in the next two days on mostly defensive stuff that we’ll be working on and they are very good, they have very good offensive players and he (Mike Maker) is a very good coach.”