SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Shaq Shannon totaled a career-best 20 points to lead No. 3-seeded Quinnipiac men's basketball team to an 89-80 win over No. 11-seeded Niagara in the 2014 MAAC Basketball Championship Tournament Semifinals at the MassMutual Center on Saturday night. Quinnipiac, now 20-10 overall, advances to the semifinals to face No. 2-seeded Manhattan College tomorrow, Sunday, March 10, at 7 p.m. live on ESPN3.
The win was monumental for the Bobcats as they returned to their winning ways after a two-game skid to close out the regular season. Quinnipiac's 20-win season is the third in its last five years.
Shannon scored 12 of his 20 points in the first half – a career-half high for the senior guard. Shannon converted on 7-of-9 from the floor, including a season-high 4-of-5 from three-point range. The Bobcats received double-digit performances from all five of its starters, headlined by Ousmane Drame's (Boston, Mass.) 14th double-double of the season. Drame finished with 15 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) had 18 points and six rebounds with Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) grabbing 15 points, including a 6-for-6 night from the free-throw line. Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) had 12 points as well as a game-high six assists.
Scoring 80 points in a game has proven to work wonders for the Bobcats, and Saturday night wasn't any different. Quinnipiac improved to 16-0 when scoring 80 or more points this year. The Bobcats were extremely efficient with the ball, shooting a season-best 58.2 percent from the floor. Drame and Azotam combined to go 14-of-25 for the game en route to a 42-32 edge in the paint.
Both teams traded hoop over the first six-plus minutes of the game before Niagara rattled off nine unanswered to take a 23-13 lead with 10:56 to play in the first half. Quinnipiac tied the game, 26-26, with 6:18 to play in the first frame with a 13-3 run. After Niagara regained the lead, 31-28, on a Marvin Jordan three-pointer, Shannon knocked down back-to-back three-pointers on consecutive possessions before Conti nailed a mid-range jumper to give Quinnipiac a 36-31 lead with 1:28 to play before the half. Niagara's Antoine Mason countered with a lay-up and a free throw after being fouled and Cameron Fowler tied the game at 36-36 on a lay-up. Kasim Chandler (Newark, N.J.) gave Quinnipiac the lead at halftime with a lay-up with twenty seconds to go.
Coming out of the break, Quinnipiac and Niagara traded hoops, with the Bobcats clinging to a 61-55 lead on a jumper by Justin Harris (Paterson, N.J.). After a pair of free throws by Wesley Myers pulled Niagara within four points, Quinnipiac blew the game open with a 13-2 run to take a 74-59 lead with 6:43 to play. Niagara responded with a 14-5 run, powered by eight points from Mason, as they pulled within six points, 82-76, with 51-seconds to play. At that point, Quinnipiac had reached the bonus and converted on 8-of-11 down the stretch to hold on for the 89-80 win.
The Bobcats were once-again dominant on the boards, outrebounding Niagara, 42-29. Long-range shooting also aided Quinnipiac offensive surge, connecting on 8-of-13 attempts on the night.
For Niagara, Mason had a game-high 28 points, while Jordan and Myers finished with 15 and 14, respectively. The Purple Eagles conclude the season with a 7-26 record.
Prior to Quinnipiac's win, three of the other top four seeds earned a spot in the semifinals. No. 1-seeded Iona takes on No. 4-seeded Canisius in the first semifinal at 4:30 p.m.
Fans interested in purchasing tickets for the MAAC Semifinals can visit the MAAC Championship page on www.ticketmaster.com.
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