Backcourt Leads The Way; Men's Basketball Holds Off Hartford, 70-61

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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Senior James Johnson (Queens, N.Y.) and sophomore Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) each finished with 15 points on Tuesday evening, as the Quinnipiac University men's basketball team climbed back to the .500 mark with a 70-61 victory over in-state rival Hartford at Chase Arena. The Bobcats recorded 26 points off of 20 Hawk turnovers to improve to 4-4 overall on the season.

Johnson added three assists to his 15 points, which included two crucial buckets down the final stretch. Azotam returned to his double-double ways, as the power forward pulled down 10 rebounds in a 4-of-8 shooting performance. Freshman Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) was also stellar on the offensive end. In just his second career start, he chimed in with a career-high 14 points and six rebounds. Dave Johnson (Jackson, N.J.) added 10 points to conclude a 39-point outing for the Bobcats backcourt.

The Bobcats raced out of the gates in this one, posting a 17-7 run over the first five minutes of play. Azotam recorded the team's first six points, as James Johnson capped off the surge with a fast-break layup at the 15:25 mark.

However the Hawks had an answer, responding with an 11-7 run over the next 4:11. Nate Sikma cut the Bobcats' lead to just six points after a three from the wing, 24-18, with 11:58 left in the first half. The Bobcats settled down after the midway mark and held a 14-13 advantage through the final 10 minutes. At the end of the opening stanza, QU carried a 38-31 lead as the two teams cleared the court for halftime.

Contrary to the first half, the Hawks came out of the locker room for the second half with better play early on. Hartford registered a 13-4 run, which granted the home team a mere two-point advantage, 44-42, with 14 minutes remaining in regulation.

Fortunately for the Bobcats, they quickly erased their deficit and regained their lead. Hearst capped off a 9-0 run over the next five minutes to give the visitors a 51-44 lead with nine minutes showing on the clock. Despite a last stitch effort from Andres Torres and the Hawks' long-range shooting, QU sustained its three possession lead through the closing minutes. Torres, a senior guard out of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, poured in 19 points in the second half, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc.

Quinnipiac controlled the points in the paint, 30-20, and the glass, 41-28. Entering the game, the Bobcats ranked atop the nation in rebounding, second in offensive rebounding and third in rebounding margin. The statistic remained true throughout the contest, as the Bobcats turned 16 offensive rebounds into 17 second chance points and captured a plus-13 rebounding margin.

Junior Jamee Jackson (Newark, N.J.) put together another strong showing despite foul trouble. He finished with eight points and eight rebounds on the night. Garvey Young (Washington, D.C.) had four points and two others finished with two.

Torres led the Hawks, who dropped to 0-9 with the loss, with 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from long distance. Sikma went 5-of-9 from the floor for 13 points.  

The Bobcats return to action with their second game of their three-game road trip on Sunday, December 11 at Vermont. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. in Burlington, Vt.

Contact: Tony Distasio; Ardistasio@quinnipiac.edu