BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Led by Ike Azotam's (Boston, Mass.) 20-point, 13-rebound double-double, the Quinnipiac University men's basketball team mounted a tremendous comeback to erase an 11 point first-half deficit and defeat Hartford, 82-77, on Saturday afternoon in the first game of the 2013 Connecticut 6 Classic. With the win, Quinnipiac improved to 4-1 since the tournament began back in 2009 and 6-1 in season-openers under the direction of head coach Tom Moore.
A 2013 All-CT 6 Classic Team member, Azotam proved why he has been selected to the team over the past two seasons. The 6-7 power forward led all Bobcats with 10 points in each half, and ripped down 13 boards for his 27th career double-double. Three others finished with double figures; Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) with 17, Kasim Chandler (Newark, N.J.) with 11, and AJ Sumbry (East Windsor, N.J.) with 10. Shaq Shannon (Philadelphia, Pa.) had nine and Ousmane Drame (Boston, Mass.) had eight.
"There were a lot of positives in the game tonight," said Moore, who claimed win No. 109 for his career at Quinnipiac. "We had a lot guys play their first game, and it's great to get out of here with a win against a good team that is going to win a lot games this year."
It was a tale of two halves to say the least as Quinnipiac needed to battle back after falling behind in the first half. Hartford shot 54.8 percent from the field, including five three-pointers in the opening stanza to go ahead by a score of 42-31 at the break. The Hawks also held the Bobcats to just 38.5 percent from the floor before the halftime whistle.
However, the Bobcats returned to form in the second half, starting with a 17-5 run over the first six minutes of play. Azotam was the driving force behind the quick spurt, but then it was freshman Kasim Chandler who provided another spark to extend the margin. With a series of crafty plays from the 5-10 point guard in the open court, Quinnipiac pushed the margin to 15 points, 66-51, with 6:09 remaining in regulation.
With a fierce full court press, Hartford managed to cut into its deficit and kept the game interesting in the waning minutes. However, a tremendous display of free-throw shooting from Zaid Hearst kept the Bobcats in front, and disallowed the Hawk comeback. Hearst finished 12-of-12 from the free-throw line, which set a new Quinnipiac Division I program-record for most free-throws without a miss.
The nation's top rebounding team from a year ago picked up right where it left off against Hartford. Quinnipiac garnered a plus-16 edge on the glass after hauling in 47 for the game. Nine of them were on the offensive end which accounted for eight second-chance points. The Bobcats also scored 16 points off of 15 Hawk turnovers.
Quinnipiac, now 17-5 all-time against Hartford, received a big boost from three newcomers to the roster. Sumbry, Chandler and Umar Shannon (Atlantic City, N.J.) combined for 27 points, four assists and five rebounds. Umar Shannon, a transfer from Saint Francis University, needs 58 more points to eclipse 1,000 for his career.
Quinnipiac returns to action on Tuesday morning with a trip to Philadelphia. For the first time in program history, the Bobcats will be a part of ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. Quinnipiac will take on La Salle from Tom Gola Arena at 9 a.m. The game will be aired live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
Student-Athletes, parents and fans can download the 2013-14 QU Athletics schedules to your laptop and mobile devices for free by clicking in the iCalendar link at the bottom of each sport's homepage or the master schedule page. Fans can also follow Quinnipiac Athletics on Facebook and Twitter (@QUAthletics) for all of the latest news and updates.