Quinnipiac Men’s Basketball, After Month Away, Wins in Double OT

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Jacob Resnick

Every time the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team takes the court for practice, the players walk past a quote taped to the wall outside the locker room. The words set their intentions for each day.

“We practice,” it reads, “to create habits that will allow us to thrive in the most difficult situations.”

The Bobcats have faced a plethora of those difficult situations since they last played on Dec. 6. Following two COVID-related stoppages, the team returned to the floor on Friday and were met with a scrappy Manhattan Jaspers ballclub that took them to two overtimes.

In the end, it was those habits that led Quinnipiac to a gutsy 84-79 win in its MAAC opener on Friday after an exhausting 60 minutes of play.

“We just kept reminding each other, ‘Hey, we practice for this. We want this. We’re not afraid of this,'” head coach Baker Dunleavy said.

After escaping a quarantine period, practice is all that the Bobcats could do over the past two weeks. While isolated, the team used any and every opportunity to improve its cohesiveness as a group.

“Being out, it gave us a lot of time to stick together, communicate, and talk about what we needed to do on the court,” sophomore center Seth Pinkney said. “I think tonight we got the win because we had gathered all of that information and executed it like Coach told us to.”

Pinkney was a key contributor in the victory, scoring 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds and four blocks. The seven-footer also doubled his career-high in minutes played with 42. Quinnipiac’s only other rotation big man, Elias King, was inactive.

“It was a lot,” he said. “Overtime was probably one of the biggest leaps I’ve had as a college player.

“Me being the only big guy at this time, it’s just a time to step up. I feel like I really did my job and helped my team out tonight.”

The Bobcats sent Savion Lewis on an isolation play on the final possession of regulation but the third-year guard dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds. With half a second on the game clock, Manhattan’s inbound pass was thrown out of bounds, giving Quinnipiac one shot at a winner. A lob pass to Pinkney was unsuccessful.

With just over one minute left in the second overtime period, Jacob Rigoni, who had uncharacteristically shot 0-for-4 from three-point range over the game’s first 59 minutes, found himself wide open behind the line and nailed the shot to give the Bobcats a 78-74 lead that would hold.

“Mental toughness was big-time for us,” Rigoni said. “The game comes down to the team that can push through that physical adversity when you’re tired and also stay switched on mentally.

“We’ve had a tough time off the floor with some of the COVID impacts but we’ve stuck together the whole time and looked out for each other. We’ve had a really good week back at practice and I thought that showed tonight.”

Mental toughness, togetherness. The Bobcats’ season can go many different ways from here, but the habits they’ve built in practice and while isolated will continue to pay dividends.