Quinnipiac women’s basketball season comes to an end, lose 76-65 in NCAA tournament

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Quinnipiac women’s basketball season comes to an end, lose 76-65 in NCAA tournament

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

MJ Baird

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It took nearly three months, but the Quinnipiac women’s basketball team lost for the first time in 2019. The last Bobcats’ loss was back in December, a non-conference loss to the University of Central Florida.

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits proved to be a tough test for Quinnipiac in the first round of the NCAA tournament, winning the game 76-65 and ending the Bobcats 2018-19 season.

“This is the end of an era,” Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri said.

An era of monumental success from the senior class. A class that Fabbri said is the greatest senior class to come through her program.

Jen Fay, Aryn McClure, Paula Strautmane, Brittany Martin and Edel Thornton took off their blue and gold jerseys for the final time on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.

“It hasn’t really set in yet,” Fay said. “We know we’ve done some great things here, but we’ll pass the torch to the younger players on the team to keep it going.”

“It was a bit emotional (checking out) at the end because you know it’s your last time with this team wearing this uniform as a player,” Struatmane said.

South Dakota State, a mid-major program out of the Summit Conference, made it difficult for Quinnipiac to keep the game close in the early going. The Jackrabbits went 5-of-8 (62.5%) from three point land in the first half, and carried an 11 point lead into the locker room at halftime.

Quinnipiac struggled on the offensive end early. In the second quarter alone, the Bobcats made only three field goals including 0-for-4 from beyond the arc.

But in typical Quinnipiac fashion, Fabbri made adjustments and influenced her team later in the game.

“It was a tale of two halves,” South Dakota State head coach Aaron Johnston said. “The flow in the first half was more in our favor and in the second trended more in their favor.”

“In the first half, we struggled to get some stops,” Fay said. “We came out with a fire in the second half. We gave it our all, there’s no doubt about that.”

Despite a turnover on the first possession of the half, Quinnipiac began to close the gap. Down to six points, back up to 12. Down to five, back up to nine. Then unsuspectingly, when it felt like South Dakota was in steady control, Quinnipiac had the South Dakota lead down to just three points late in the fourth quarter. Two of Fay’s 25 points, her jumper made it a one possession game.

“It was a combination of them being that strong, defensive team that we knew they were. We got a little but flustered,” South Dakota State’s Madison Guebert said.

“They have a great defense,” Jackrabbits’ senior Macy Miller said. “It almost felt like they had ten people out there. You would have have a lane and then all of a sudden there would be two or three people on you, then you pass it out and there is another two or three people on you.”

Good Quinnipiac defense forced a miss from South Dakota’s leading scorer, Miller, on the other end. Offensive rebound Jackrabbits. Another three pointer, again missed, and another offensive board. This time fouled, South Dakota’s Tylee Irwin went to the line and made both her free throws again extending the lead to five points.

The Jackrabbits never looked back from there. With less than three minutes to play Quinnipiac resorted to fouling, trying to extend the game. But South Dakota State went 7-8 at the charity stripe to hold on in the final minutes.

But this sequence was a representation of the game on the glass.

“We knew coming into the game that they were a really good rebounding team,” South Dakota State’s Myah Selland said. “That was something we focused on and just making sure that all five of us were crashing the boards and being strong.”

South Dakota State won the overall rebound battle, 49-34. This likely a combination of the Jackrabbits’ 6’2″ forwards the tallest on the court, and two of Quinnipiac’s better defenders (McClure and Strautmane) in foul trouble.

Bottom line, South Dakota State was able to keep Quinnipiac just far enough away to still control the outcome.

And although a one-and-done in the NCAA tournament leaves a sour taste for Quinnipiac now, it won’t for long. Once the sadness is over, once the thought of one game is gone and the players, coaches and fans see the bigger picture, then the true reflection on Quinnipiac basketball can begin.

But it is impossible to think about Quinnipiac basketball over the last five years and not think about this years senior class.

“What they have done for this university nationally, bringing the recognition in such a classy way has made me really proud,” Fabbri said.

When Fabbri looks back in five, ten, or twenty years she isn’t going to remember a sequence of missed defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter of one game.

Instead she is going to remember the conference championships, the NCAA tournament appearances and the new, raised bar these young women have set for Quinnipiac basketball.