Bobcats keep on rolling, hold off Long Island University to claim top spot in Northeast Conference
By Michael T. Lyle, Jr.
January 19, 2008
HAMDEN — It’s been a long time since the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team found themselves in this position, and the fans are starting to take notice.
They keep this going, and maybe — just maybe — they’ll be thinking about getting to “The Big Dance” come mid-March.
The Bobcats put together a well-balanced attack, led by DeMario Anderson’s 21 points, in holding off a tough Long Island University squad, 84-80, before 1,784 at TD Banknorth Sports Center. The win was the Bobcats fourth straight, putting them in sole possession of first place in the Northeast Conference — a feat that head coach Tom Moore never imagined.
“I didn’t know where we’d be before the start of the season,” said Moore. “We’ve been fortunate with playing against opponents we have lined up in our early part of the schedule. Tonight we found enough resolve to outplay them down the stretch.”
Indeed, Quinnipiac (10-8, 6-1 NEC) had to work hard to earn this one against a Blackbird squad that was coming off a huge 20-point romp over previously unbeaten Wagner just two nights prior. The Bobcats started off strong behind the combination of DeMario, Casey Cosgrove and James Feldeine, as they raced out to an early 28-23 lead in a first half in which they shot a shade under 50 percent from the field. DeMario lead the charge with 10 of those points, including a buzzer-beating jumper that ended the period with Quinnipiac up, 44-35.
Not to be outdone, LIU (10-7, 2-4) battled back to take a 56-53 lead mid-way through the second half, party due to some sloppy ball-handling and passing by the Bobcats, and also behind the one-two punch of Jaytornah Wisseh and Kellen Allen. Both combined to score more than the Blackbirds’ total points on the evening. Allen’s 3-point play with 8:13 left gave the visitors a 56-53 cushion. But after another three-pointer from Wisseh, Feldeine took over. With LIU clearly focusing on denying DeMario the ball, Feldeine tallied the last nine points for the Bobcats, culminating with a back door conversion off a nice feed from Karl Anderson that put Quinnipiac up for good, 75-71, with under a minute to play.
“Everybody knows he’s the best scorer in the league,” said Feldeine of LIU’s defensive scheme for DeMario. “They were coming at him and I saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.”
Wisseh and Kyle Johnson kept the Blackbirds in striking distance, but Evann Baker and DeMario knocked down eight straight free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
“He was huge tonight,” said Moore of Feldeine. “I think that opening game against Hartford was good for him because it was a confirmation that he can be a great basketball player. He showed that on the offensive end tonight.”
For LIU, Wisseh lead all scorers with 23 points, while Allen added 20. The loss was a tough one for head coach Jim Ferry, particularly because of his objective to try and keep DeMario from having a big game. The plan worked to an extent because the Bobcats’ captain did commit eight turnovers and shot 8-of-21 from the field. However, they failed to keep an eye on Feldeine, who proved to be the difference down the stretch.
“(DeMario’s) a great player and we thought we did as good as a job against him as anyone in the conference,” said Ferry. “We just didn’t do as good of a job on Feldeine. I thought he played very well for them late in the game.”
Another positive for the Bobcats would have to be the support of their fans. With the women’s team also on a hot streak — they remained undefeated in NEC play also with a nail biting win vs. LIU earlier in the day — Hamden is starting to become another popular basketball town in the state. Seeing a great turnout for both games was more than enough to satisfy Moore — something he emphasized during “Midnight Madness” back in October.
“It was loud and it was fun,” he said. “There’s nothing that our kids want more than to have fan support. It’s a fun team to watch, and hopefully, when the students come back from winter recess, they’ll fill up the other end of the court.”
Perhaps they will, and with plenty of good reason.
NOTES: DeMario has now scored 20 or more points in five consecutive games for the Bobcats…The last time he fell below that mark was at St. Francis of PA two weeks ago. He scored 19 in a QU win. He’s also scored in double-digits in every game played this year….Quinnipiac now gets a week off before returning to action next Saturday at Sacred Heart, the conference’s preseason overall pick. The Pioneers ended the Bobcats playoff run last year in the semi-final round of the NEC Tournament in Fairfield.