Quinnipiac wins foul plagued game with Manhattan

I have been to two college basketball games this week, first was the Central Connecticut State women at home vs. St. Francis of Pennsylvania and then last night in Hamden for Quinnipiac vs. Manhattan. If these games had one thing in common, it was the sound of a whistle.

Between the two games, 130 personal fouls were called and two technical fouls on coaches. 176 free throws were attempted and eight players fouled out in a combined 85 minutes of play time (CCSU vs. SFU played a single overtime period).

I understand the “freedom of motion” rules were being enforced this year, but it seems like things are getting a little ridiculous. A college basketball game should not take two and a half hours to be played.

I know the rules of basketball, but I have never been great with the details of officiating, so I’ll give this one my best shot.

Manhattan committed 32 fouls to Quinnipiac’s 24 in what looked like a “home job” to the Jaspers fans, but in fact, the game was called incredibly tight on both sides. QU is the second best rebounding team in the country and they showed it tonight, for the final 30 minutes at least.

Little did I know, the physical activity early in the game would lead to so many fouls.

The Jaspers led 22-13 with 9:57 left in the first half before Shane Richards committed the ninth team foul of the game sending Kasim Chandler to the line. Umar Shannon hit a three from the corner with 6:14 left in the half to give the Bobcats a 26-25 lead and the game stayed close for the rest of the night.

A number of times during the game, it seemed like no one had any idea why the ref was blowing his whistle, but only once did they hear it from the crowd of 2,038 at the TD Bank SportsCenter, because a majority of the “bad” calls went against the Jaspers.

Aside from the officiating, Michael Alvarado had a big game for Manhattan after leading-scorer George Beamon went down with an apparent shoulder injury early in the first half. Alvarado seemed to be the only player in green able to penetrate the defensive presence down low, dropping in a game and season-high 23 points (career high is 25 on Feb. 7, 2011 vs. Iona); also recording his first double-double of the season by adding 10 rebounds.

Ike Azotam for Quinnipiac had a monster game. The senior tied a career-high with 18 rebounds while pouring in 17 points to lead the Bobcats. Ousmane Drame added 14 boards while the entire team recorded 49, 2.5 more than their season average.

The game was going to come down to free throws, because it seemed like the entire game was free throws and it did. Neither team was great from the line, but QU shot better (67.4% to 50%) and that where the game was won. Quinnipiac defeated Manhattan 81-76 and continued to show that they belong in the MAAC and will be a force, especially this year with the big guys doing their thing.

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Manhattan vs. Quinnipiac tonight

Tonight I am going to the TD Bank SportsCenter to watch Manhattan take on Quinnipiac in Hamden.

This will be the first non-Northeast Conference game I am going to since, probably watching UConn at the XL Center in Hartford in 2004, when they won the National Championship with some of my favorite college basketball players ever (Ben Gordon, Josh Boone, Emeka Okafor, Talik Brown, Rashad Anderson, Charlie Villenueva). Anyway, this MAAC game tonight should be a good one.

Quinnipiac is second in the country in rebounding, led by their THREE beasts down low, Ike Azotam, Zaid Hearst and Ousmane Drame. That is who keeps the Bobcats in games.

Manhattan is led by George Beamon at 21.6 points per game. The Jaspers are 65th in the country in scoring.

I don’t really know much about these two teams, but I hope to see a good game.

Connecticut’s Frozen Two

I stand here at the garden center entrance at Lowe’s in Cromwell wishing I could watch the NCAA National Championship Game between Yale and Quinnipiac tonight at 7 p.m. Not because I am a huge hockey fan, I haven’t ever followed college hockey and only watch the NHL during the playoffs, but because the two teams vying for greatness tonight are less than 9 miles apart, door to door.
I grew up playing NHL ’95 on my Sega Genessis with my brother, playing as the Hartford Whalers. We even went to a few games at the Civic Center as a kid (I was a member of the kids fan club).
I remember the day my dad told me the team left for Carolina. I was so upset, but didn’t understand why a team would leave. The Wolf Pack came in a few years later and it was cool having hockey back in Hartford, but it wasn’t the same. When the team was bought and the name changed to the Whale, the entire state thought something great wad happening to the state of hockey in Connecticut, but no. The Whale Bowl, the outdoor hockey festival at Rentschler FieldĀ  in East Hartford was cool…actually freezing cold. I met a few friends there after work, I remember wearing so many layers that I could barely rest my arms down the side of my body.
My friends left after the first period and as temperatures dipped below zero, the football stadium emptied out. I would say less than 500 people remained as the game went into a shootout. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. The game ended and I literally ran almost a mile back to my car. That was probably the best thing I could have done. It got the blood flowing and I regained movement of my extremities.
I’ve been to a few games with my friends at the XL Center the last few years, they’re fun, but its not the same as a major league team or even minor league baseball, which I love.
Tonight at 7 p.m on ESPN, the Yale Bulldogs take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats for the national championship.
What does this mean for Connecticut?
Connecticut hockey is finally back on the map. I don’t have the numbers, but its been about 15 years since anyone in the state actually cared about a hockey game being played. Now the entire country and probably all of Canada is watching as well. I know there are a ton of people who say hockey is a boring sport, but I respect it. The strike a few years ago and then the most recent one didn’t not help the NHL, but hockey is again growing its fan base.
This does not mean the NHL should come running back to the state, but it will prove, if the fans show up and the teams stay contenders year after year, that they should consider it.
College sports have a more dedicated fan base than minor league teams anyway, but if continue to draw and produce NHL quality players at these programs, there is no reason why professional sports can’t make a comeback in the capital city.
I know this is just my thoughts, but believe it or not, tonight’s game is one of the biggest sporting events Connecticut has ever seen and the game is being played in Pittsburgh. Both student sections will be electric…
Oh, and one other thing. My editor at the Middletown Press is a Quinnipiac graduate. We watched the first Thursday night in the office and even though I left when
the Bobcats were up 3-1, I saw Joe freaking out. I have felt the same way about CCSU sports, but those weren’t even playoff games, let alone national semifinal. He was asked by the New Haven Register to go to Pittsburgh for the game tonight, but turned it down so he could sit home and watch the game on television. I don’t blame him. If my alma mater were playing, I wouldn’t want to be working, even though it would be an incredible experience.
I could go on and on about the game, but I’m going to leave it at that and probably listen to the first period on the radio during my break. The life of a retail employee.

Cold-blooded Kyle Vinales

Quinnipiac took a two point lead with about 30 seconds to go, Kyle Vinales held the ball close to half court while the clocked ticked to under ten seconds. It looked as if Vinales would drive to tie the game, but he didn’t. The defense gave him enough room to pop and shoot. I think the crowd went silent. SPLASH! They erupted. Joe Efese hugged Vinales at half court as the sophomore guard soaked in the reaction from his fellow students.

This was not the biggest or best game of Vinales’ career statistically, but it was easily the most exciting. At the half, Vinales had only five points and it was looking like it was going to be a tough night on the boards versus the second leading rebounding team in the country. Numerous times Quinnipiac would miss a layup, but then get three or four chances to put it back. The Bobcats grabbed 21 offensive rebounds and scored 13 second chance points.

I predicted before the game that Quinnipiac would out-rebound Central by 20 and Ike Azotam would have 18 himself, let’s see how close I was…

QU 47, CCSU 35 = 12

Ike Azotam – 6

So I was wrong, but I am glad I was wrong. Almost every time Azotam touched the ball on the offensive side, he was double-teamed. That’s the only way to stop a beast like him down low. Zaid Hearst was the guy who could have killed the Blue Devils tonight. He shot 6-11 for 17 points and as the Bobcats inbounded with 5.6 seconds left for a shot to tie or win, I knew he had to be tightly guarded.

Evan Conti drove the length of the court, but his runner came up short as time expired giving CCSU their eighth Northeast Conference victory of the season, thus clinching a spot in the conference tournament. I have no idea who holds the tiebreakers and all that stuff, but the Blue Devils won in dramatic fashion tonight and that’s all that matters.

If you want more on the NEC tournament and such as the season winds down, but tournament time heats up, follow the following people on Twitter…

@nybuckets

@pioneer_pride

@NECHoopsRon

…and many more