Quinnipiac falls to Iona


Kevin Higgins, Men's Basketball Beat Reporter

So close. Yet so far. 

One win away from taking sole possession of first place in the MAAC, the Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s basketball team (15-11, 9-6 MAAC) fell to the Iona Gaels (11-15, 9-6 MAAC) by a score of 81-77. In game that featured 12 lead changes and multiple haymakers, the Bobcats were unable to deal a knockout blow to the three-time defending conference champs.

“Tough one for us,” Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “We’ve just got to be able to grind defensively… that wasn’t there for us tonight.”

Both teams appeared to have left their defenses in the locker room at the start of this one.

Quinnipiac’s star guard Cam Young was fresh off a record-setting 55 points on Sunday against Siena, and he picked up where he left off. Young splashed three early treys to give his team a quick lead. On the other end, Iona’s E.J. Crawford and Tajuan Agee dominated both inside and out to pace the Gaels.

The two teams traded buckets back and forth through the game’s first 20 minutes, and thanks to some Kevin Marfo heroics, the Bobcats entered the half with a three point lead. With five seconds left, Young went coast to coast with the ball, but his contested layup rolled off the rim. However, Marfo’s big mitts were able to corral the rebound, and the junior forward put it back up and in at the buzzer, sending the crowd into a frenzy and Quinnipiac into the break with momentum.

While the first half was a fast-paced, smooth-flowing game, the second half was anything but. Each team slowed down the pace and ramped up the foul totals over the final half. After jumping out to an early eight point lead in the opening minute of the half, the changed pace took its toll on Quinnipiac, and they lost their offensive rhythm; this led to an adverse effect on the defensive end.

“We have to become a team that – whether shots are falling or shots are not falling – we’re playing the same way defensively,” Quinnipiac sophomore guard Rich Kelly said. “And tonight, I think we let our offensives struggles, at one point, get to us… and we lapsed on the defensive end, and they capitalized.”

Agee was doing most of the capitalizing. The junior forward scored 19 second half points to lead Iona, and he finished with a career-high 27. Agee was able to back down defenders like Marfo and Abdulai Bundu in the post, and he would power through or draw contact almost every time; all but six of Agee’s points were from the foul line or mid/close range shots.

Iona senior guard Rickey McGill also played a crucial role in the victory, scoring 9 second half points. While Agee was better tonight, McGill’s shots will be on the highlight reel tomorrow.

With the Gaels clinging to a three point lead with under four left, McGill stepped into a huge three-ball to double the lead. On the very next possession, McGill attempted a stepback three from the corner that was heavily contested – so heavily, in fact, that Kelly fouled him on the way up. It didn’t matter. McGill’s shot swished through the nylon, and he completed the four point play for a commanding eight point advantage.

If the Bobcats seemed tuckered out as regulation came to close, it shouldn’t be all that surprising: this was their third game in five days, and they just played a triple overtime game on Sunday in a win at Siena. Despite that, both Kelly and Dunleavy refused to use it as a crutch. 

“I don’t think physical fatigue played a role,” Kelly said. “I think we just weren’t locked in defensively and couldn’t get stops.”

“I can see where that would be the case,” Dunleavy explained. “But we talked about it coming into the game… this is 40 minutes right in front of us. It doesn’t matter what has happened before.”

With 100 ticks left on the clock, Quinnipiac found itself down by 12, trailing 73-61. This was nothing new.

 Last Tuesday, Quinnipiac beat Rider after trailing by nine with under a minute left, and then were a desperation shot away from beating Marist on Friday after almost overcoming an eight point deficit in the final 40 seconds.

With their backs against the wall, the cardiac ‘Cats struck once more.

Young completed two separate four point plays in a span of 30 seconds to pull the Bobcats to within six. Then, the normally steady Gaels started to falter. Agee was the main culprit, as he missed five of six free throws and added in a turnover during a one minute stretch, and Kelly and Jacob Rigoni took advantage by each hitting a three.

Suddenly, Iona’s seemingly insurmountable lead had been cut to three with just five seconds left, and Agee returned to the charity stripe needing to just make one of two free throws to seal a victory.


 Agee’s face dropped as he missed the first, and he looked like he was about to crumble as the pressure rose. However, with a crowd of people clapping, chanting and yelling all around him, Agee got nothing but net on the second, and Iona escaped with the four point win. The victory also knotted them up with Quinnipiac as part of a five-way tie for second in the MAAC.

Dunleavy remorsed at what could have been.

 “Every game you lose in this league is a missed opportunity,” Dunleavy said solemnly. “Down to the wire here, there’s not a lot of separation.”

Quinnipiac will look to take advantage of their next opportunity this Sunday afternoon at Monmouth, another one of the teams in the aforementioned quintuple tie. As for Iona, they’ll look to keep their momentum and extend their winning streak to four as they visit Manhattan on Friday night.