HAMDEN, Conn. - James Johnson (Queens, N.Y.) scored eight points in the final minute of regulation, including the game-winning steal and fast-break bucket in the final seconds, as the Quinnipiac University men's basketball team came from behind to defeat Mount St. Mary's, 77-75, in the Bobcats' Northeast Conference opener Saturday afternoon at the TD Bank Sports Center. With the win, the Bobcats improve to 5-2 (1-0 NEC), while the Mountaineers fall to 3-5 (1-1 NEC).
"With six or seven minutes left, I said, 'I'm going to do whatever I need to win. We're not going to lose this game," said Johnson. "I was just telling myself, 'if I need to dive on every ball, try to get every rebound, lock my man up, make shots, I'm not going to let my team lose our first NEC game at home.'"
Justin Rutty (Newburgh, N.Y.) contributed his 34th career double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Jamee Jackson (Newark, N.J.) was a force on the interior with 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Dave Johnson (Jackson, N.J.) also added a career-high seven assists. James Johnson shot 5-for-7 from long range and also added a team-high four steals and four rebounds.
Lamar Trice led Mount St. Mary's with 17 points and six assists, while Julian Norfleet (16), Shawn Atupem (15) and Danny Thompson (12) also finished in double figures for the Mount. Thompson's eight rebounds led the Mountaineers.
With the Bobcats trailing by four with 57 seconds left, Johnson drilled a tightly-contested trifecta from the top of the key as the shot clock expired. After Shawn Atupem responded with a jumper with 40 seconds left to put the Mount up by three, Johnson immediately hoisted a right-wing three to tie the game with 28 seconds remaining.
With the shot clocked turned off and the Mount content to hold for the game's final shot, Johnson stripped Norfleet with five seconds left, streaked up court and got his runner in the lane to fall with less than a second left on the clock, sealing the victory.
"I was saying, 'if my man gets the ball at the top, I'm going to steal it and try to win the game,'" said Johnson. "I was not going to let him beat me. He came to the top and I got it and I took off. I looked at the clock, saw Dave Johnson running and said, 'Uh, Dave, I would usually pass this, but I've got to take it myself. I've got to do this one for myself.' I just took it and luckily it went in."
The Bobcats' win in their league opener was the fourth consecutive to begin the Tom Moore Era at Quinnipiac.
After five lead changes, the Mount took a five-point lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks in large part to 20 points off the bench from Trice (12) and Thompson (8). Norfleet also added 10 points in the initial stanza. James Johnson led Quinnipiac with 12 points at the break, while Rutty had eight points. The Mount shot 59.4 percent (19-32) in the first half.
After a Rutty lay-up cut the Quinnipiac deficit to three on the Bobcats' first possession of the second half, the Mountaineers went on a 7-0 run to take a 10-point lead with just less than 18 minutes remaining in regulation.
The Mount St. Mary's lead remained at least five points until Jackson's put-back slam of a Twyman miss made it 61-58 with 8:42 remaining in regulation. After an Atupem free throw gave the Mount a four-point lead, James Johnson cut the deficit to one with his third three-pointer of the game at the 7:14 mark.
Jackson's block on the defensive end led Rutty ahead on the fast break, before finding Dominique Langston (Bridgeport, Conn.) for the Bobcats' first lead of the second half, 63-62, with 6:34 remaining. But consecutive Atupem free throws, a fast-break three-point play by Trice gave the Mountaineers a 67-63 lead.
The Bobcats responded with six straight points, two on a jumper in the paint by Rutty, followed by two free throws from James Johnson and a go-ahead lay-up from Jackson off a Dave Johnson feed. Atupem tied the game at the 3:04 mark with a jumper, before Norfleet made a pair of free throws to give Mount St. Mary's a two-point lead. Thompson's driving lay-up with 1:38 remaining put the Mountaineers up 73-69, before James Johnson unleashed his decisive flurry of production.
For the game, the Mountaineers outshot the Bobcats, 54.4 percent (31-57) to 47.6 percent (30-63) from the floor and 83.3 percent (10-12) to 54.5 percent (12-22) from the free-throw line. The Bobcats took a 41.7 percent (5-12) to 33.3 percent (3-9) edge from beyond the three-point arc, and outrebounded their seventh straight opponent to open the season, 37-32.
The Bobcats return to action Tuesday, when they welcome defending Patriot League Champion Lehigh to the TD Bank Sports Center. Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.