HACKENSACK, N.J. -Senior Jeremy Baker (Washington, D.C.) scored a game-high 20 points and Justin Rutty (Newburgh, N.Y.) added his 14th double-double of the season as the Quinnipiac University men's basketball team clinched its first-ever Northeast Conference Regular Season Championship with a 74-65 victory at Fairleigh Dickinson Saturday night. The Bobcats (21-8, 15-3 NEC) tied Robert Morris for the crown, but take the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs by virtue of the head-to-head tie-breaker. Quinnipiac also earned an automatic bid into the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), should they be upset in the NEC Tournament.
Rutty scored 14 points and added 13 rebounds for the Bobcats, while James Johnson (Queens, N.Y.) added 13 points.
"I'm proud of the accomplishment," said Quinnipiac Head Coach Tom Moore. "To do it over 18 games says a lot about how good a season you had. Unfortunately, though, the reality of life at this level is that it gets you home court as long as you can keep winning, but nothing else. It doesn't get you a bye. It doesn't get you a 20-point lead in the next game, before the game tips off. We've positioned ourselves as well as we possibly could position ourselves. I'm very proud of this group of young men. I'm mostly proud of their maturity and unselfishness. It's a group that really gives a lot of themselves without complaining on every level. It's nice to go on this journey with this group of kids. They mean a lot to me."
The Bobcats will face eighth-seeded Monmouth in the NEC Tournament Quarterfinals, Thursday night at the TD Bank Sports Center. Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Bobcats led by as many as 14 points in the first half, after going on a 10-1 run late in the half. FDU scored the final two points of the half on a pair of Mike Scott free throws to close the deficit to two, 39-27, at the half. Rutty led the Bobcats with 10 points and eight rebounds at the break, while Johnson and Baker had eight points each. Mike Scott led FDU with seven points.
Quinnipiac led by as many as 17 points in the second half, before the Knights went on a 16-3 run to cut the deficit to three points, 65-62, with 3:26 left in regulation. But Quinnipiac made 9-of-10 free throws down the stretch to pull away for the win.
For the game, Quinnipiac outshot FDU, 40.3 percent (25-62) to 38.0 percent (19-50) from the floor, 37.5 percent (6-16) to 21.4 percent (3-14) from long range, and 72.0 percent (18-25) to 60.0 percent (24-40) from the free-throw line. Quinnipiac also edged FDU on the boards, 40-38.