BUFFALO, N.Y. – Playing basketball in the month of February has been an enjoyable time for the Quinnipiac men's basketball team. The Bobcats continued that trend on Thursday night, extending its winning streak to six straight with an 88-81 victory over Canisius College in front of a sellout crowd at the Koessler Athletic Center in Buffalo.
The win was a crucial one for the Bobcats, as it puts some separation between the two teams in the league standings. Quinnipiac improved to 18-8 overall and 13-4 in league play – taking sole possession of second place with the win. Canisius dropped to 12-5 in league play and fell to fourth place for the time being.
Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore has stressed the importance of winning, while also trying to get healthy during the final stretch of the season. After playing the last two games with seven players, Quinnipiac welcomed Umar Shannon (Atlantic City, N.J.) and Justin Harris (Paterson, N.J.) back with open arms on Thursday night.
Umar Shannon finished with 26 points, three assists and two rebounds in his return, sparking the Bobcats on several occasions from long range. He went 4-of-6 from behind the arc, 8-of-16 overall, and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. He had logged 36 minutes by night's end.
Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) was next in line with his 10th 20-point game of the season. He had 21 points, five assists and four rebounds which included a 17-of-18 showing from the free-throw line. Ousmane Drame (Boston, Mass.) registered his 20th career double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) had nine points, three rebounds, three blocks and matched a career high with five assists.
Shots were falling for both teams in the first half, but it was the final four minutes before the break that played a large role in the outcome. Ahead by four, 29-25, Quinnipiac put together an 11-0 run to open up a double-digit lead, 40-25. The Bobcats carried a 42-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Quinnipiac held onto that lead for most of the second half before a late run by Canisius cut into the advantage. The Griffs outscored Quinnipiac 23-11 during a stretch that reduced their deficit to just four points with one minute to play. However, Quinnipiac forced two crucial empty Canisius possessions, and went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line to secure the victory. Drame put the exclamation point on with a dunk with eight seconds to go.
Rebounding was a key component to Canisius' win at Quinnipiac back on Jan. 30. However, the Bobcats returned to form for this one, collecting a 49-27 edge on the glass – including 16 offensive rebounds. All eight Quinnipiac players had at least one rebound in the game with Harris and Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) combining for 15 of them. Harris had nine rebounds and four points while Conti finished with nine points and six boards.
Reigning Lute Olson National Player of the Week Billy Baron led Canisius with 31 points, six assists and four rebounds in the loss. Chris Manhertz and Chris Perez each had 14 points.
Quinnipiac remains in upstate New York for a clash with Niagara University on Saturday, Feb. 22. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. at the Gallagher Center in Lewiston, N.Y.
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