BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. – Senior James Johnson (Queens, N.Y.) netted a game-high 22 points to become Quinnipiac's Division I scoring leader on Thursday night, as the men's basketball team went on the road and defeated St. Francis (N.Y.), 80-72, in the quarterfinals of the Northeast Conference Tournament. With the win, the Bobcats advance to take on LIU Brooklyn in the semifinals of the single-elimination playoff on Sunday evening.
Needing just 11 points to match Rob Monroe's 1,685 point-total, Johnson surpassed the mark with a layup in the second half. The senior guard also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists in front of a packed house at the Pope Physical Education Center. Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) posted his 16th career double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) chimed in with 14 points, including three from behind the arc.
Meeting for the first time in postseason history, the Bobcats and Terriers exchanged baskets early on in the contest. However, with the score knotted at 20 apiece, QU's offense exploded over the next five minutes of play. The Bobcats boasted a 17-3 run, which was sparked by a Hearst three-point field goal and capped off by a thunderous dunk from Garvey Young (Washington, D.C.). With all the momentum in its favor, Quinnipiac carried a 10-point, 41-31, advantage into the locker room at halftime.
After the break, SFC responded nicely to its double-digit deficit and quickly brought the crowd back into the game. Trailing by nine points with 16:22 showing on the clock, the Terriers put together a 12-3 run over the next five minutes of action. Stefan Perunicic concluded the spurt with a deep trifecta from the wing, cutting the Bobcat lead to just one point.
The next three minutes featured another run, this time from the visiting Bobcats. James Johnson sparked a 9-0 run to extend their lead back to double-figures, an advantage that they would not relinquish. Quinnipiac held off the STF pressure and made enough free-throws down the stretch to collect its ninth NEC Tournament win.
St. Francis (N.Y.) was looking for its third win of the season against the Bobcats after taking the first two meetings. Rebounding and turnovers proved to be the difference in those contests, two statistics that went in favor of the Bobcats this time around. QU committed just 11 turnovers and snatched a 48-36 edge on the glass, including 20 rebounds on the offensive end.
Young continued his stellar play off the bench with nine points and four rebounds on the night. Dave Johnson (Jackson, N.J.) battled through foul trouble and scratched out eight points and four assists, while Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) chimed in with five crucial points during the Bobcats second-half surge. Jamee Jackson (Newark, N.J.) returned to the lineup after being sidelined with an injured foot and made an immediate presence for the Bobcats. He scored five points, grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots and was spectacular behind the ball.
St. Francis received four players in double-figures, led by Brent Jones' 21 points. Ben Mockford finished with 17, Travis Nichols had 12 and Perunicic added 11.
Quinnipiac, now 18-12 overall, looks ahead to Sunday where it will once again face a team who has already defeated them twice on the year. LIU Brooklyn, one of three 20-win teams in the league, knocked off the No. 8 seed in Sacred Heart on Thursday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Brooklyn, N.Y.
For all the latest news, scores and highlights pertaining to the men's basketball program, visit www.QuinnipiacBobcats.com.
Contact: Tony Distasio; firstname.lastname@example.org