STOP #4: TD Bank Sports Center, Hamden, CT
Saturday, January 26, 2013 - 2:30pm
QUINNIPIAC BOBCATS 66 (16-2, 7-0), FDU KNIGHTS 39 (8-10, 3-4)
Off to their best start in program history, and the lone remaining unbeaten team left in the NEC women’s basketball standings, the Quinnipiac Bobcats continued their dominating run with a 66-39 victory over the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. The contest was played in front of the NEC-TV cameras and a pink-attired crowd on the Bobcats “Play 4-Kay” day.
Prior to the game even starting, Knights coach Pete Cinella made an interesting move with his starting lineup. Cinella started sophomore guard Tiffany Grant for the first time all season, while having the team’s leading scorer (and the fifth best scorer in the NEC) Danielle Pankey, come off the bench. Pankey had averaged 17 points per game over her last 13, but really struggled last weekend against the NEC’s Brooklyn institutions. Pankey had shot 3 for 16 from the field in each game. Dave Popkin, who was covering the game on the sidelines for NEC-TV, reported that the move was made to try and find a change-of-pace on offense. With Pankey coming off two tough games, Cinella hoped that Grant could give a boost to the offense by starting and that Pankey could work out her struggles in a new role. That plan didn’t exactly work. Pankey entered the game about eight minutes in, and never really got into a rhythm. She would end up playing 19 minutes, but going 0 for 4 from the field with no points recorded on the afternoon. Grant would play 14 minutes, going 0 for 4 with no points.
Meanwhile, both teams had trouble shooting the basketball early on in the first half. At the 10 minute mark the Knights were shooting 5 for 19 and 0 for 7 from three, while the Bobcats were just a hair better at 6 for 17. The Knights were down 16-10, and just when it seemed QU was about to break away, FDU charged back with a 15-5 run to go up 25-21. However, it would be the Bobcats who would have the last word going into intermission. QU would execute a 10-1 run, capped off by a Jasmine Martin ‘NBA range’ three pointer in the final 10 seconds of the half.
Despite their struggles, the Knights were able to keep pace with the Bobcats in the game’s first 20 minutes, only trailing 31-26 at the break. But that was about to change. On this day, Quinnipiac would come out and record one of the most dominant halves of basketball I can ever remember seeing in person. The Knights were held to 16.7% shooting (4-24), and were outscored 35-13 in the second half. The most remarkable statistic was that the Knights were shutout on the scoreboard from the 10:09 mark, all the way until Erika Livermore converted a layup with 1:35 remaining in regulation. It ended up being a Quinnipiac 15-0 run that spanned 8 minutes and 34 seconds.
On offense for the Bobcats, Felicia Barron gets a ton of attention, being a senior and a career 1,000 point scorer. Brittany McQuain gets a lot of attention as well, with her being a double-double threat night in and night out. However, I think starting right now, let’s make it known that Jasmine Martin is perhaps the most dangerous scorer on the Quinnipiac roster. The sophomore guard should be under-the-radar no more. On the afternoon, Martin recorded a game high 16 points, her 13th straight game in double figures scoring. She’s also moved up into the top 10 in the NEC in scoring average with 13.4 points per game on the season.
Camryn Warner was also fantastic on the afternoon. Warner was a starter last season, however this year came off the bench for the first two months, until teammate Samantha Guastella went down with an injury. Warner has made a seamless transition back into the starting lineup, averaging 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds over her last five games. All season, Warner hadn’t recorded a game in double figures points or rebounds, but on this afternoon she would do both. The Bobcat junior recorded her second career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Knights.
For the second straight week, Fairleigh Dickinson had trouble getting the ball inside to Livermore. The FDU sophomore only saw a handful of opportunities, but did manage to record her 15th double-double of the year with 10 points and rebounds.
Plain and simple, the Knights could just not score the basketball on the afternoon. Their top four scorers, who combined average 42 points on the season, only combined to score 19. FDU also committed 25 turnovers, which directly resulted in 29 Bobcat points. If a team is going to upset Quinnipiac this year, keeping possession has to be one of the top keys. The Bobcats feast off turnovers, and are not going to be defeated if their opponents are handing them over the basketball 25 times a night.
One thing that’s telling about Quinnipiac is that despite their large lead, they didn’t coast to the finish line. They played the game hard for all 40 minutes. In the final minute of regulation they still had players diving on the ground for loose balls and Coach Fabbri was still shouting instructions from the sideline just like it was a tied game.
Let’s face it, the Bobcats know that they are pretty good. And for them, this season is all about a championship. But one of the toughest things to do, in any sport, when you have a really good team, is to stay focused and motivated through the ‘dog days’ of a long regular season. No matter how good a team is, unfortunately you can’t just take a time machine and fast forward to the NEC Championship Game. Dave Popkin and Matt Harmon, who were covering the game for NEC-TV, saw the Bobcats in their morning shootaround. Both commented about how focused it was, and how it almost seemed like a regular practice. For Coach Fabbri and Quinnipiac the ability to keep that same focus, intensity, and drive, whether it’s a practice, a walk through, or a game that has a 25 point margin on the scoreboard in the final moments a fantastic sign…one of the true signs of a champion.
The Bobcats stay unbeaten in NEC play, moving to 7-0, equaling their conference record that start their 2008 regular season championship season. On the horizon is a matchup Monday night with the 5-2 CCSU Blue Devils. On the other side, FDU has dropped four out of their last five games. The Knights are tied for seventh in the NEC standings at 3-4. Fairleigh Dickinson is about to enter a crucial 5 game stretch of their schedule, which should go a long way in determining whether or not they will be able to make a playoff push. It starts with a Garden State grudge match at Monmouth on Monday, followed by home games against CCSU, Bryant, Monmouth, and then a game at Sacred Heart.
CD POST GAME RECAP
1. Camryn Warner, QU – 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 29 minutes
2. Jasmine Martin, QU – 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 27 minutes
3. Felicia Barron, QU - 10 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 28 minutes
I arrived at the TD Bank Sports Center in time for the finish to the men’s game, which took place prior to the women’s basketball contest. The Bobcat men managed to hold on for a 58-56 victory over FDU. With seconds left, Jamee Jackson came from behind and blocked what would have been a game tying Knights layup. Then after Evan Conti missed the first half of a one and one, Mustafaa Jones unleashed a three quarter court heave that just missed, off of the side of the rim. From there, the excitement continued in the stands through the women’s game as several hundred pink-attired fans sat in attendance for the Bobcats “Play 4-Kay” game. The “Play 4-Kay” is an initiative for schools to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. For the game the Bobcats wore special pink socks in support of the cause.
AROUND THE NEC
SACRED HEART 56, MONMOUTH 42 – It was a rematch of last season’s NEC Championship Game and it ended with the same result, the Pioneers claiming a victory over MU on their home court. SHU was led by sophomore Gaby Washington, who netted 24 points on the afternoon. After a 1-3 start in conference play, Sacred Heart has won three in a row.
CCSU 55, ST. FRANCIS-BROOKLYN 53 – The Blue Devils tied a team D1 record by only allowing 29 points on the day. CCSU also limited the Terriers to just 10 points in the first half. CCSU started the game on an 11-0 run, and didn’t allow St. Francis to score their first points until five and a half minutes in. Jessica Babe led the team in points and rebounds with 13 and nine, respectively. After dropping their first two conference games, Central has won their last five straight.
ST. FRANCIS 80, WAGNER 43 – Three SFU players finished in double figures scoring as the Red Flash improved to 5-2 in NEC play. St. Francis was powered by Alli Williams’ 12th double-double, as she finished with a game high 19 points and 16 rebounds. Nickia Gibbs and Rebecca Keegan netted 10 points each. SFU’s bench scored 38 points, just five fewer than the entire Seahawk team.
BRYANT 64, LIU-BROOKLYN 49 – Bulldog head coach Mary Burke picked up her 300th career victory as Bryant claimed its second conference win of the win. Naana Ankoma-Mensa led Bryant with another monster game of 14 points and 19 rebounds. LIU led 31-30 at halftime, but were outscored 34-18 in the second half
ROBERT MORRIS 61, MOUNT 59 – In the most thrilling finish of the day, Robert Morris freshman guard Lou Mataly scored the game winning points with 1.9 seconds left to lift the Colonials to victory. In addition to the game winning dramatics, Mataly scored a career high 22 points, with six three pointers. Mount led 59-51 with four minutes remaining, but Bobby Mo would net the game’s final 10 points to clinch the comeback win. So far in seven NEC games, Mount has played in 3 OT contests (going 1-2), and two other games decided by four points or less (going 1-1)
The 2013 NEC season flips the calendar over into February with next weekend’s slate. First, the Blackbirds and the Colonials will meet at the WRAC in Brooklyn in a 3pm game on ESPNU. Elsewhere in Brooklyn, the Terriers will welcome in the red-hot Red Flash in a Battle of the NEC’s St. Francis schools. FDU will look to rebound as they host Central Connecticut State, Monmouth will host the Bryant Bulldogs, Mount will get a visit from the reigning champion, the Sacred Heart Pioneers, and Wagner will be the next in line to challenge the unbeaten Bobcats. Next Saturday will be the ninth conference game played for all teams, marking the halfway point of the 2013 conference season.