Men’s Hoops exceeds expectations
By: Michael T. Lyle, Jr.
March 7, 2007
HAMDEN — So it wasn’t the ending the Bobcats had in mind on Sunday afternoon in Fairfield. Playing in the semi-final round of the Northeast Conference tournament against second-ranked Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac was just one win away from another showdown with top-ranked Central Connecticut for the right to go to the NCAA’s.
With a courageous return by senior swingman Adam Gonzalez, who had spent the last four days in a local hospital due to skin abscess, the script seemed well-written. He, along with junior DeMario Anderson, kept the Bobcats within striking distance, as they trailed the Pioneers by just two at the break, 35-33.
In the second half, however, the tables turned on Quinnipiac, as the Pioneers (18-13 overall, 13-6 NEC) started a 9-2 run that put the home-team in cruise control the rest of the way. After the Pioneers’ Joey Henley scored on a layup with 3:20 remaining, Quinnipiac (14-15, 11-8) was soon packing their bags for a seven-month vacation while Sacred Heart moved on to the conference final for the first time in their eight years as a Division I program, winning 83-69. Gonzalez led all scorers with 20 points in his final appearance in a Bobcat uniform.
Even though the season may have come to a disappointing end, it was anything but for Quinnipiac men’s hoops. After a hard-fought, yet six-point season-opening loss at then 18th-ranked UConn, a nine game skid that lasted from late-November until the early part of January, and allegations of two freshman players involved in a sexual-assault incident on a QU freshman back in early November, Quinnipiac persevered, and soon found themselves right back in the thick of the NEC race in mid-January.
During that stretch, they ran off an impressive six-game winning streak, their longest in 27 years. In addition, they closed out half of their home schedule with a win against St. Francis of NY in their final appearance at Burt Kahn Court. Ten days later, they christened the new TD Banknorth Sports Center with a thrilling two-point, overtime win against Long Island University.
The wins kept coming for the Bobcats in their new gym, and it resulted in picking up the third seed in the conference tourney and homecourt advantage. In the last game of the season at “The Bank”, Quinnipiac knocked off sixth-seeded Farleigh Dickinson in a thrilling opening-round contest by a mere one point, setting up their matchup with Sacred Heart last Sunday.
In addition, Quinnipiac had a great supporting cast with efforts from seniors Victor Akinyanju, Van Crafton, Dale Meinbresse and Chris Weyhe. All four will be missed as Coach Joe DeSantis will be on the recruiting “warpath” to fill their spots for the 2007-08 campaign.
And although he relished in the role of coming off the bench and providing an offensive spark for the Bobcats, DeMario may move up to the starting position as he, along with Karl Anderson and Andrew Cashin will serve as “leaders” for this squad.
Plus, the Bobcats were picked to finish fourth in the conference this season, but grabbed the third spot in their best finish in the NEC in quite some time.
Critics may pick Quinnipiac to slip a couple of spots next season as they enter the rebuilding process, but with DeMario, Karl and Andrew leading the way, the Bobcats should still boast one of the better offenses in the conference.