Thursday, March 1, 2018

Quinnipiac's hot start propels them to first-round win over Siena in MAAC Tournament

By Norman Rose (@ECoastBias)

ALBANY, NY -- There was one moment of competitive excitement in Quinnipiac's 67-58 win over the Siena Saints.

It was two or three minutes after halftime. The home Siena Saints (the neutral site tourney is in their home building, of course) enjoyed an 8-0 run that involved Jordan Horn hitting a three, stealing the ball and hitting another three. And then a layup!

But on the other end, Quinnipiac's Jacob Rigoni stroked a three after some solid Bobcat ball movement, and reality set back in: Siena was down 17.

Siena got beat, beat badly, and beaten from the jump. The youthful Quinnipiac Bobcats started the game off 8 for 8, with five threes and three scores in the paint -- all off the dribble.

"We just had an aggressive mindset," Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy said after the game. "There's not a lot of teams that win their last game, but however our season ends, we want to play aggressively."

Aggressive, they were.

Siena goes home, Quinnipiac faces #2 seed Canisius on Friday night at 9:30 PM.

Quinnipiac got 18 points from freshman Rich Kelly, 17 points from freshman Jacob Rigoni and 14 from senior Cameron Young.

Quinnipiac started the game going 8 for 8 from the field, strafing the Saints with five three-point shots and three shots at the rim, facing minimal resistance. Quinnipiac only needed three assists for those shots -- their scorers were sizing up the Siena defense and going off.

It was 21-5 before the Bobcats started missing.

"I thought we should have sped them up more, I think we were out of synch in the first four minutes," Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said. "I think they knew they had to get us early, they had to attack us."

In the second half, the Saints started playing credible defense, but the Saints were already down by 24 at the half.

At halftime, Jimmy Patsos was "very calm. I said why don't we go 9/10 [from the field] and they go 1/10. Just stick to the plan. We're young, you have to struggle through, stick to the plan."

Siena brought it within nine in the last two minutes, sticking to a plan of high pressure with Manny Camper and Christian Bentley playing around 15 minutes each. At the end, a determined Saints squad extended the game by fouling, but, really: this one was over about four minutes in.

Eleven second half turnovers from Quinnipiac made the game vaguely interesting from a competitive standpoint.

From a program-building standpoint, though, the game was very exciting for the visitors from Connecticut.

"We knew coming out of half time that's not a program that quits," Dunleavy said, "and they came after us."

"I'm proud of our group," he added, "this was a big step for us. Playing as well as we did in the first half helps."

"I feel like we put in the work all year," said Jacob Rigoni, "there's no reason not to be confident."

Siena was led by 12 points from Khalil Richard and 10 from Jordan Horn. Prince Oduro was a force at times, but fouled out with just over eight minutes left in the game. Oduro had eight points.

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