December 8, 2013

Men’s Basketball Suffers First MAAC Setback at Rider, 90-78

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – Despite a valiant second-half effort and 24 points from Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.), the Quinnipiac University men's basketball team fell short to Rider University, 90-78, in its first MAAC road game on Sunday afternoon. Azotam and Shaq Shannon (Philadelphia, Pa.) each posted season highs offensively in the losing effort.

It marked the first setback for the Bobcats in conference play, after claiming their first win on Friday night against Fairfield. Quinnipiac, now 5-3 overall, had four players in double-figures by night's end – led by Azotam who went 9-of-14 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. He also hauled in seven rebounds and became the sixth player in program history to record 1,000 points and 800 rebounds, while he's just the second to accomplish the feat in the Division I era.

Shaq Shannon led the backcourt with 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 30 minutes of action. It matched career highs in points and assists for the senior guard, both accomplishments he had done twice before. Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) finished with 15 points and five rebounds, while James Ford (Hopewell, Va.) recorded 10 points off the bench to set a new career high for the sophomore guard. He was 4-of-5 from the floor, which included two threes in the first half.

Rider's high-flying offense started out slow, but began to click as the game went on. Daniel Stewart led the Broncs with 25 points, while two others, Jimmie Taylor and Anthony Miles, also eclipsed the 20-point plateau. Rider shot 45.3 percent overall but its 51.5 percent in the second half was detrimental to Quinnipiac's comeback bid.

The Bobcats garnered some early momentum with a 9-2 run behind six points from Azotam and three from Shaq Shannon right out of the gate. Quinnipiac's lead dwindled over the next few minutes though, and fouls began to pile up on both sides. All square with 6:31 left in the first half, Rider used an 11-3 run to gain some separation before the halftime whistle. The Broncs led 37-32 at the break.

Rider's lead fluctuated from four points to 14 points in the second half, but Quinnipiac hung around due in large part to the three-point shot. Hearst matched a career high with four threes in the second half while Shaq Shannon and Umar Shannon (Atlantic City, N.J.) each added one to keep Quinnipiac within striking distance. With 2:46 left in regulation, the Bobcats had reduced their deficit to just four points after Ford connected on a put-back layup in traffic. Quinnipiac trailed 77-73 and forced Rider into a timeout to break momentum.

In the end, Rider's trio of scorers was too much for the Bobcats. After the timeout, Rider rattled off a 9-0 run to extend its lead back up to double-digits, and put the game out of reach for Quinnipiac. The Broncs made their free-throws in the waning minutes to seal a second straight MAAC victory from Alumni Gymnasium.

The length and size of Rider gave Quinnipiac trouble on the backboards, which in turn, limited second-chance points. Quinnipiac controlled the rebounding margin, 44-41, but the figure was significantly lower than QU's nation-leading average of 14.9. Rider corralled 13 offensive rebounds and for 19 second-chance points. Rider's full court pressure also forced 12 Bobcat turnovers.

Ousmane Drame (Boston, Mass.) had four points and 10 rebounds, Marquis Barnett (Bronx, N.Y.) added career highs in points (4) and rebounds (4), and Umar Shannon finished with four points for Quinnipiac. The Bobcats fell to 0-3 all-time against Rider.

The Bobcats will take a week off for finals before returning to the hardwood on Sunday, Dec. 15 at Vermont. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. at Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vt.

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