SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Despite trailing for much of the contest, the Bryant University men's basketball team made Saturday's matchup interesting midway through the second frame, closing its deficit to just three points, but Quinnipiac's defense and rebounding advantage was too much for the Bulldogs to overcome, falling to the Bobcats, 69-58, on the road at the TD Bank Sports Center.
Zaid Hearst would turn a 27-19 halftime advantage into a game-high 14-point lead for Quinnipiac (14-13, 10-5 Northeast Conference) with consecutive 3-pointers to open the second stanza, capitalizing on a Bulldog (17-9, 10-5) turnover to maintain the momentum after a Bobcat-dominated first half.
Sophomore Dyami Starks (Duluth, Minn.) would cut the lead to six points, 35-29, with a triple with 16:33 to go, but Bryant wouldn't get that close again for nearly eight full minutes. A turnover and foul on Ousmane Drame with just over nine minutes to play allowed the Bulldogs to cut the hosts lead to 46-39, sparking a 9-2 Bryant run capped off by consecutive trifectas from senior point guard Frankie Dobbs (Berea, Ohio) to bring the Bulldogs within a single possession, 48-45, with 8:10 remaining in the contest.
Evan Conti would respond with a three of his own, though, and the teams would trade baskets over the next four minutes to keep Quinnipiac's lead at six, 60-54, with 3:45 showing on the clock.
With time running out, the Bulldogs turned to their outside game to make up points, but Quinnipiac pulled in the rebound on each miss, forcing the Bulldogs to stop the clock and send the Bobcats to the free throw line. Quinnipiac would go just 7-for-12 from the charity stripe in the final two minutes, but it would be enough to keep the Bulldogs at bay.
Dobbs would pace the Black and Gold with 15 points and add six rebounds while junior Alex Francis (Harlem, N.Y.) added 14 points and a side-high seven rebounds on the outing. Starks also finished the day in double figures with 11 points. Ike Azotam and Shaq Shannon led Quinnipiac and the game with 16 points apiece.
After shooting just 25.8 percent and scoring only 19 points in the opening frame — the Bulldogs' lowest scoring output in a half this season – the visitors shot 55.6 percent for 39 second-half points to finish the day at a 39.7 percent clip. Quinnipiac also shot better in the second stanza, hitting 54.2 percent for a 43.9 percent mark at day's end.
The Bobcats owned the boards all afternoon, taking a 43-30 margin on the glass while pulling in 14 offensive rebounds, led by nine from Azotam (four offensive) and Drame (6). The Bulldogs turned the ball over 15 times under Quinnipiac's tough defensive pressure, while the Bobcats suffered 13 giveaways.
The home team's pressure inside kept the Bulldogs from getting a clean look at the basket all afternoon, particularly in the opening 20 minutes. After the game's opening bucket, the Bulldogs trailed until the 10:42 mark, when Starks drained a three from just beyond the arc for the visitors' first edge of the game, 11-10.
But the Bobcats would take it back 1:20 later off a triple from Shannon and outscored the Bulldogs, 9-4, to bring the clock below the five-minute mark with a 19-15 advantage.
The Bulldogs would close the margin to two, 19-17, on a Francis layup with 3:14 left in the frame but would score just once more in the stanza as Quinnipiac built an eight-point lead – it's largest of the half – to take a 27-19 advantage into the halftime break.
The Bulldogs will return home for the last three games of the 2012-13 regular season, all to be played next week, in search of their first-ever Northeast Conference playoff berth. Bryant will open the final stretch Monday night against Sacred Heart, as the Pioneers visit the Chace Athletic Center for a 7 p.m. makeup game previously postponed by Winter Storm Nemo.