HAMDEN, Conn. – For the second straight game, Quinnipiac battled one of the MAAC's top teams - and for the second straight game - Quinnipiac prevailed. The Bobcats knocked off preseason favorite Manhattan College, 81-76, in front of 2,038 fans at the TD Bank Sports Center on Thursday night. The win was Quinnipiac's third straight and snapped an eight-game unbeaten streak for the Jaspers. Both teams move to 4-1 in MAAC competition.
Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) continues to turn heads around the league as the senior forward put up another dominant showing to lead the Bobcats. He finished with 17 points, matched a career high with 18 rebounds and blocked three shots in the win. He was 6-of-12 from the floor and set a career high with 11 offensive rebounds, while picking up his 35th career double-double.
Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) excelled on both sides of the ball for the second straight game, as the junior guard poured in a team-high 20 points in 35 minutes on the hardwood. He was 9-of-12 from the free-throw line and 3-of-7 from behind the arc in his fourth 20-point game of the season. He added five rebounds and four assists on the night.
Rebounding has paved the path to success for the Bobcats and never more than on Thursday night did their identity shine through. The rebounding margin fluctuated all night long, but a plus-10 edge in the final five minutes proved to be the difference in the outcome. Quinnipiac mustered a 49-44 advantage on the glass which helped Quinnipiac gain separation in the closing minutes.
Trailing by one with 5:03 showing on the clock, Quinnipiac put together a 9-2 run over a three minute span to regain the lead, 75-69. Quinnipiac buckled down on defense and controlled the backboards to pull away. Hearst scored six points during the stretch and Kasim Chandler (Newark, N.J.) capped it off with a free-throw with 1:59 remaining.
Manhattan closed the gap to three points when Shane Richards connected on a three with 10 seconds left, but Hearst secured the victory with two free-throws with seven seconds left. The Bobcats were below their season average from the charity stripe, however, knocked down 31-of-46 on the night. They improved to 11-0 over the last two seasons when making at least 25 free-throws.
Ousmane Drame (Boston, Mass.), Umar Shannon (Atlantic City, N.J.) and Chandler turned in solid performances as well. Drame was one point shy of his 14th career double-double with nine points and 14 rebounds; Umar Shannon netted 15 points and went 6-of-6 from the free-throw line; and Chandler finished with nine points, three assists and three rebounds.
Quinnipiac's bench also factored in the triumph with James Ford (Hopewell, Va.), AJ Sumbry (East Windsor, N.J.) and Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) all combining for 10 points. Ford added four rebounds to his stat line.
The Bobcats, who improved to 11-1 in their last 12 games at the Bank, handed the Jaspers their first loss since November 26, 2013. It was the first time the two programs have ever met.
Manhattan's leading-scorer, George Beamon, went down with an apparent shoulder injury five minutes into the contest. Michael Alvarado led the Jaspers with 23 points and 10 rebounds, whereas Rhamel Brown added seven points, five rebounds and four blocks.
Quinnipiac carried a 39-35 lead into halftime after closing the half on a 7-1 run. The Bobcats quickly bumped the lead to 10 points - the largest of the game - early on in the second half. The game featured seven lead changes overall.
Quinnipiac is back in action on Sunday, Jan. 12 with a trip to Saint Peter's University. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. at Yanitelli Center in Jersey City, N.J.
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