On Thursday night, Sacred Heart (5-3, 1-0 NEC) opened up their Northeast Conference season with a valuable road win over in-state foe Quinnipiac (2-4, 0-1 NEC). The Pioneers were led once again by Shane Gibson with 21 points, 5 boards, and 3 assists, and they also received significant contributions from Chris Evans and Femi Akinpetide. But before I analyze this game further, I need to get something off my chest…
(WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SUCK IT QUINNIPIAC!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!)
Ok. My apologies, but my hate for the Quinnipiac University Bobcats runs deep. You see I’ve experienced the SHU/Quinnipiac rivalry as a former college “athlete” of the tennis team. My first ever college match was against Quinnipiac, and I remember it like it was yesterday. There I was, a freshman, pumped up beyond belief before the match, only to get thoroughly beaten by my opponent, 6-2, 6-1. In the second set, my arrogant adversary began hitting drop shot after drop shot, and doing it well I might add. He was absolutely having some fun at my expense. Once the match mercifully ended, as we were shaking hands at the net, he smugly proclaimed that he had never hit drop shots like that before our encounter. It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but trust me, it was the way he said it and that shit-eating grin on his face. It also didn’t help that he high fived his equally arrogant coach right in front of me.
Since that day as a 19 year old, I’ve openly rooted against Quinnipiac. These days, despite being far removed from campus life, it still isn’t difficult to hate Quinnipiac. Their head coach Tom Moore, the former UConn assistant coach to Jim Calhoun, just has a slimy feel about him. Moore was the center of attention in the Nate Miles recruiting scandal, a scandal that nearly derailed Calhoun’s legacy. Moore allegedly tried to pry SHU assistant coach Anthony Latina from Bike’s staff a couple years ago. Recently, he merely suspended one player for one game, even though 5 of his players – 4 of them starters - were arrested after a campus fight in September! Let’s see, three students get their face smashed in, one player is arrested for assault, 2 others for misdemeanor assault, and very little discipline is handed out? What was Moore’s final punishment to the players, extra suicides at the end of practice?
And to add the cherry of top of the Tom Moore hate sundae, he even enjoys killing bunnies for fun! Ok, I made that last sentence up. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. But you get the point, therefore you can imagine my excitement when SHU broke their 5 game losing streak to the Bobcats yesterday in Hamden.
So how did SHU do it? With some defense, quality bench play and, quite frankly, luck. Quinnipiac, the nation’s leader in rebounds, grossly outrebounded SHU 45-29 (the SHU website wrongly reported the Pioneers having 39 rebounds). SHU turned the ball over 16 times, yet only compiled 12 assists. They shot a pedestrian 42% from the floor and 69% from the charity stripe. Justin Swidowski, their best low block presence who’s quickly establishing himself as a human foul machine, played only 16 minutes in the game before fouling out for the second time in the past 3 games. Senior Stan Dulaire played 11 of the most unproductive minutes you’ll ever see on a box score. Based on those stats alone, you’d think it was an easy home victory for Quinnipiac.
Enter the Pioneer defense. They held Qunnipiac to a 31% field goal percentage and were somehow able to clamp down whenever the Bobcats made a run. My man Chris “The Future” Evans, after a couple of lackluster games, scored 11 points on only 3 shot attempts. He also added 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Even more unexpected was the performance of Femi Akinpetide. After I called him “offensively inept” in my previous post, Akinpetide responded – I’m sure to my criticism - by filling in admirably for a foul-troubled Swidowski and an ineffective Dulaire. 11 points and 6 rebounders for the 6’6’’ Akinpetide is a solid performance, especially when he had to bang bodies down low with the leading rebounder of the NEC, and alleged assaulter, Ike Azotam. And finally, Shane Gibson was just being, well Shane Gibson.
Later this afternoon, the Pioneers head to lovely New Britain, Connecticut to face another NEC in-state rival, Central Connecticut. Central has been red-hot lately, having recently routed Hartford and Bryant University. The Blue Devils are spearheaded by a 3-headed scoring monster, led by the 2010-2011 NEC Player of the Year, Ken Horton. This will serve as a terrific litmus test for the Pioneer defense, although we must be cautious before thinking SHU has the team to compete at the top of the NEC. Another victory today however and I move that much closer to delusional dreams of a future NCAA tourney birth.