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Quinnipiac explodes in first half, enough to get key win over Niagara

Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Chris Dacey

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team tied its total wins MAAC wins from last season with an 89-81 over Niagara on Saturday night at Lender Court. The Bobcats featured two players scoring at least 20 points, Peter Kiss with 23 and Chaise Daniels with 24.

“We won the game in the first half,” said head coach Tom Moore. “I thought the first half was one of our most complete performances this season.”

Quinnipiac scored 48 points out of the total 89 point the team scored on the night. The Bobcats shot a staggering 52.6 percent from the field. Quinnipiac also our rebounded Niagara 28 to 15 in the first.

The most complete performance this season was completed with a big piece coming off the bench for the Bobcats. Like a 6-foot-9, 245-pound piece. Donovan Smith was out Saturday and will be for the rest of the season. 

“I think we all have to pick it up,” said Daniels. “Donovan was a big part of our team but we step up and pick up his slack.”

But for Daniels it was no Smith, and no problem as he led the Bobcats with 24 points and 10 rebounds while gathering three blocks on the defensive end. Daniels also started off the game by scoring eight of Quinnipiac’s first 10 points.

One of the players put in charge of picking up that “slack” Daniels was talking about was junior Ja’Kwan Jones. Jones only played 14 minutes in the game but Moore said he was pleased the junior college transfer’s work as he received extended minutes for the first time this season.

“He [Jones] is a very consistent kid. Didn’t play at all earlier in the year but, it never changed his attitude at all,” said Moore. “I thought he was great tonight. If a couple of those free throws went down for him he would have had a good night statistically.”

Jones had only played 16 minutes the entire season coming into the Niagara game. He added three points and five rebounds to his stats.

However, the second half was a different story for this young Bobcat team. After leading by 22 points at halftime, the Bobcats saw their lead cut to six points at one point in the second half.

For Niagara, its offense was led by junior guard Kahill Dukes, who finished the game with a season-high 29 points.

“I want to complement Niagara on how hard they hung in,” said Moore. “I thought Kahill Dukes was awesome in the second half. His will drove them.”

It seemed like whenever Quinnipiac was expanding its lead on Niagara, it was Dukes who responded immediately with a big shot or a three pointer to silence a  TD Bank Sports Center.

Alongside Dukes was fellow junior Matt Scott, who added 20 points of his own, 17 of those coming in the second half.

This young Quinnipiac team did bend but, it most certainly did not break for Moore and his staff.

“We found out that we can play harder with energy,” said Moore. “Once we won a couple of games at the beginning of January we found out how this whole thing was going to work.”

The Bobcats were able to hold on to their lead at the end of the game winning by a total of nine points. Freshman Mikey Dixon hit two free throws with 20 seconds left to seal the 89-81 win.

As for tying last year’s total amount of wins Moore had no choice but to be pleased, but he still sees more for this team and the program in the future.

“There is a lot of pressure on this team to not let Quinnipiac basketball stay down,” Moore said in regards to only having nine wins last season. “We are not out of the woods yet. I’d like to have a hell of a lot more wins than nine but it’s a start.”

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