MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. – James Johnson (Queens, N.Y.), Dave Johnson (Jackson, N.J.) and Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) led a potent attack on Thursday night, as the Quinnipiac University men's basketball team overcame a halftime deficit to defeat Robert Morris, 78-76, at the Charles L. Sewall Center. Trailing by eight points at the break, the Bobcats connected on 66.7 percent of their second-half field goal attempts to complete the comeback bid.
With the win, QU improves to 9-7 on the season and 2-3 in the Northeast Conference. The triumph marks the 10th win all-time against the Colonials, who fall to 12-6, 3-2 in the league.
James Johnson led all scorers with 22 points, as the senior guard went 7-of-12 from the floor, dished out four assists and grabbed three rebounds. Dave Johnson, in his strongest performance to date, added a career-high 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He pulled down six boards and handed out five dimes in 33 minutes on the hardwood. Azotam finished with 17 points and six rebounds, even with his minutes limited due to foul trouble in the first half.
QU's offense really started to click early on in the second half. The Bobcats boasted a 16-6 run over the first seven minutes of play and captured a two-point lead, 43-41, after an Azotam layup underneath. From that point on, the Bobcats gradually began to take control of the game. James Johnson's three-point field goal at the 4:52 mark pushed their advantage to eight points, the largest of the game at the time.
The teams exchanged baskets for the next two minutes, when RMU decided to make Quinnipiac beat them from the free-throw line. Led by Dave Johnson, who finished 8-of-8 from the line, the Bobcats made 12-of-16 from the charity stripe down the stretch.
The Colonials chipped away at their deficit via the three-point line and efficient free-throw shooting, but Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) delivered the final dagger with less than 20 seconds showing on the clock. His two free-throws gave QU a six-point advantage, a lead that the visiting Bobcats would not relinquish.
For the game, Quinnipiac outshot RMU, 58.5 percent to 42.6 percent, from the floor and 70 percent to 33.3 percent, from behind the arc. The Bobcats pulled down 28 rebounds, three more than the Colonials, and collected two more steals as well (6-4). Entering the showdown, RMU ranked first in the conference in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense.
Conti played a key role off the bench in the triumph. He scored a career-high seven points to go along with two rebounds and two assists. Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) added a pair of threes for six points, Ousmane Drame (Boston, Mass.) and Garvey Young (Washington, D.C.) chimed in with three apiece and Alex Jackson (Baltimore, Md.) had two.
In the first half of play, neither team was able to gain a significant advantage until the clock crept inside the five-minute mark. The Colonials then put together an 11-2 run over the final 4:25 of the frame, leaving a 35-27 lead at the break for the home team.
Jones scratched out 22 points for the Colonials despite a 5-of-17 shooting performance. Dave Johnson and James Johnson held the junior guard in check all night.
QU will wrap up its two-game set in Pennsylvania on Saturday, January 14 in Loretto, Pa. The Bobcats are scheduled to face Saint Francis in the backend of a double-header. The Quinnipiac women's team will take on the Red Flash at 1 p.m., follow by the men's game at 4 p.m.
Contact: Tony Distasio; Ardistasio@quinnipiac.edu