HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac University men's basketball team had its five game winning streak at the TD Bank Sports Center snapped on Thursday night, as the first-place Golden Griffins defeated the Bobcats, 86-74, on Lender Court. Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) led the way for the home team with his first career 30-point game in the losing effort.
In the first meeting ever between the two teams, Canisius entered the contest with a one-game lead over Quinnipiac in the league standings. With the win, the Golden Griffins improved to 9-2 overall and now have sole possession, for the time being, of first place in the MAAC. The Bobcats dropped to 12-8 overall and 7-4 in conference play.
Hearst carried the Bobcats on his back for most of the night, finishing with 33 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He was 9-of-11 from the free-throw line and added six rebounds and four assists to his line. Hearst was the first Quinnipiac player to score 30 points since Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) netted 32 two years ago against Niagara.
Azotam and Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) joined Hearst in double-figures for the night. Azotam was one rebound shy of his 40th career double-double, totaling 12 points and nine rebounds. He extended his double-digit scoring streak to 17 straight games. Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) reached double-figures for the third straight game with 11 points and set a new career high with eight assists.
Canisius kept the Bobcat crowd very quiet early on with an 8-0 run to start the game. Quinnipiac missed its first four shots after the opening whistle, and struggled mightily to find rhythm on the offensive end. Canisius' lead blossomed to 18 points before Quinnipiac managed to find success in transition. Sparked by Evan Conti, the Bobcats cut their deficit down to single-digits with an 8-0 run to close the first half.
The Bobcats continued to roll in the second half, using a 7-0 run to erase a nine-point lead for the Griffs. Ousmane Drame (Boston, Mass.), who returned for the first time after a two-game absence, capped off the run with an emphatic dunk to force Canisius head coach Jim Baron into a timeout. However, the stoppage in play was just what the doctor ordered, and Canisius pulled away for good over the next few minutes.
Canisius' recipe for victory came on the backboards against the nation's leading rebounding team. Quinnipiac and Canisius played even on the glass, 38-38, with the Bobcats grabbing 15 offensive rebounds for just eight second chance points.
Canisius guard Billy Baron, the reigning Lute Olsen National Player of the Week, scored 15 of his team-high 20 points in the second half – most from the free-throw line down the stretch. Quinnipiac held him to just five points in the first stanza. Zach Lewis scored 17 points, which included three threes in the first half, and Chris Perez added 15.
Umar Shannon (Atlantic City, N.J.) had his streak of 12 or more points snapped. He had seven in the game. Drame finished with six points and eight rebounds in his return.
Quinnipiac is back in action on Saturday, Feb. 1 against Siena College. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.
Fans interested in purchasing tickets for the 2013-14 campaign can call the QU Ticket Office at 203-582-3905, visit the official website of Quinnipiac athletics, www.QuinnipiacBobcats.com or make a trip to the TD Bank Sports Center Ticket Office.
Student-Athletes, parents and fans can download the 2013-14 QU Athletics schedules to your laptop and mobile devices for free by clicking in the iCalendar link at the bottom of each sport's homepage or the master schedule page. Fans can also follow Quinnipiac Athletics on Facebook and Twitter (@QUAthletics) for all of the latest news and updates.