Quinnipiac Men’s Basketball Advances to MAAC Semifinals, Makes History


(Photo: Connor Lawless/Quinnipiac Chronicle)

Lo Yarnall

The No. 11 Quinnipiac men’s basketball team continued its MAAC Tournament Cinderella story on Thursday night, upsetting No. 3 Siena in a battle to the end.

In one of their best offensive performances of the season, the Bobcats finished shooting 50% from the field and 10-21 from deep.

“It feels great,” graduate forward Jacob Rigoni said. “It’s easy to break apart when things go against you… but that just reinforces the fact that we really, truly did believe in ourselves.”

It was a fight from the beginning, with both teams exchanging buckets for the first four minutes of play. Siena’s Javian McCollum and Jared Bills notched two baskets each, while Quinnipiac attacked from all angles.

Seven different Bobcats scored the first seven buckets, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Saints’ 9-0 run for the early 16-8 lead.

Sophomore Luis Kortright and Rigoni hit early threes to chip away at Siena’s lead. It was a deep shot off the hands of Rigoni that gave Quinnipiac back the 20-18 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half.

From there, Quinnipiac continued to make it rain from three-point land while sophomore J.J. Riggins commanded the paint. With eight minutes left in the first half, the Bobcats went on an 8-0 run of their own to send them into the locker room with a 40-32 lead.

The fight continued into the second half, graduate forward Kevin Marfo exchanging baskets and blocks with Siena’s Jackson Stormo. Kortright and junior Matt Balanc tried to hold off Siena’s mounting comeback, but the Saints exploded for a 13-0 run thanks to back-to-back buckets from Colby Rogers. With six minutes left, what was once a 16-point lead had been reduced to a single basket.

But Quinnipiac’s run wouldn’t end on Rigoni’s watch. In similar clutch-fashion to the team’s first win, the graduate student drained a three to stop the bleeding.

Then, Siena’s Rogers came back with a three of his own, bringing the Saints to within two. Quinnipiac guard Dezi Jones wanted in, responding by draining a deep shot. But Rogers came back, again; a three-pointer brought it within two.

“Really good players are gonna make plays, [and] Rogers certainly did that,” Quinnipiac head coach Dunleavy said. “Proud of our guys to put out the fire by sticking with the game plan, doing what we do and having the guts to come up with some good shots.”

Rigoni had had enough. He slammed the door with the fifth-made three in a row, effectively ending the game-long exchange.

“It’s what I’ve done throughout my career, take shots when they’re open,” Rigoni said. “As an experienced guy, I’m comfortable in that position. And you know, you got to step up.”

On the next Siena inbound, Rigoni deflected the ball, drew the foul and nailed his two free-throws to extend Quinnipiac’s lead to 71-64.

Continued Siena fouls in the last 20 seconds sent sophomore Brendan McGuire, Jones and Rigoni back to the line to seal the deal. With the sound of the buzzer, Quinnipiac officially advanced to the semifinals with the 77-71 win over Siena. The Bobcats became the first No. 11 seed in MAAC Tournament history to be one of the last four teams standing.

Rigoni secured his second Player of the Game award in the tournament, finishing with a team-leading 16 points and eight rebounds. Balanc and Jones combined for 26 points and eight rebounds.

It’ll be a quick turn around for the 11-seed on a run, with the matchup against No. 2 Saint Peter’s scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Friday.

“We get one hour to decompress, then our coaches are getting into Saint Peter’s and the players go to bed,” Dunleavy said. “There’ll be plenty of time for the rest of [our] lives to enjoy the moment if we do a good enough job.”