Game #9-101: Lehigh at Quinnipiac BobcatsNovember 27, 2012 7:00 pm
TD Banknorth Sports Center
HAMDEN, Conn. - The text message went out to several of my friends at exactly 7:25 a.m. Tuesday morning. It read as follows: "Future possible lottery pick and Duke slayer C.J. McCollum at Quinnipiac tonight if you're interested".
I quickly got a couple of RSVPs back, one of which didn't understand that it was a basketball game and not hockey (which draws much better at Quinnipiac). Reading the text again, I'm just glad no one thought it was a magic show of some kind. Or maybe a lecture. Hmmm, thinking about it, I might go to see a C.J. McCollum lecture on beating Duke, wouldn't you?
Alas, I had just about given up hope by 4 p.m., but then the phone
rang. It was my friend Dave: "The kids have karate tonight, so I'm available." He even offered to pay, having at least superficially been paying attention to the Mid-majority this season. I was a little concerned, though, was someone else paying for your ticket a Mid-majority rules violation? Could the Picket Fences face probation or could TMM give us a post-season tournament ban?
My fears were allayed slightly when we got to the ticket booth, and the voice said, "Two dollars, please". Wait, what?
"Yup, tickets only a dollar tonight."
"Do you know why?"
"You know what, I don't. Special day, I guess."
At this point, we figured it was stupid to badger someone that was giving us something (Quinnipiac has to pay for its $53 million TD Bank Arena, so it has some of the highest mid-major ticket prices around) for virtually free, so we went to our seats.
Dave and I coached together for a long time, so we think alike when it comes to basketball. He's also a big NBA fan, so he was excited to see someone that might be in "The League" next season. However, the seemingly poorly publicized $1 promotion
didn't really help sales, and some snowy weather didn't help the size of the crowd, either, although it got about half-full once all the late arrivers made their way in.
Clearly, Quinnipiac - a good defensive team anyway - was keying on McCollum, and Zaid Hearst did well early as McCollum missed two contested shots and an open three-pointer. He also committed a foul and Hearst made him look stupid at the other end by going by him for a layup.
At the first media time out, Dave just looked at me. C'mon, C.J.
Now I'm sure to McCollum, this game wasn't one he circled when the schedule came out. Lehigh went home after Sunday's game at Sacred Heart
only to come back to Connectict on Tuesday (it's about a three-hour drive). Finals are coming up, conference play doesn't start
(at least in the Patriot League) for more than a month. It's a throw-away game in Hamden, to paraphrase Herb Brooks.
Our hero finally got his first two with 10:11 left in the first half, and made another runner two minutes later. But seconds after, he picked up his second foul and went to Dr. Brett Reed's bench.
Of course, Lehigh is more than one player, as they showed last season, and the Mountain Hawks actually increased their lead with McCollum out. Sophomore Corey Schaefer came off the bench to bury a #superhoop, and veteran point guard Mackey McKnight, along with senior post players Holden Greiner and Gabe Knutson will make Lehigh a popular upset pick in the NCAA Tournament. If an equally talented Bucknell squad doesn't beat them there out of the Patriot League first.
A big putback by sophomore Conroy Baltimore gave Lehigh a 33-30 lead at halftime, with the newly crowned leading scorer in Patriot League history having just five points.
"You can see they're keying on him, and you can see he's a very smooth player, but he's kind of laid back, huh? Not much fire in him tonight."
It was hard to argue, unfortunately. I promised better in the second half from my promoted superstar.
Meanwhile, after we had spent a lot of the first half ridiculing the lack of cohesion in the Quinnipiac offense, the Bobcats put together a series of nice sets to open the second, getting Ike Azotam and Jamee Jackson involved down low. After Hearst's jumper cut Lehigh's lead to 41-40, McCollum answered with his first superhoop of the evening. There was 14:27 left and he had 10 points.
Quinnipiac kept chipping it away, getting it to 49-46 before McCollum scored six straight to open it up again. Again, the Bobcats charged back, Garvey Young's two free throws gave the Bobcats a 62-61 lead they held with four minutes remaining.
But with his team needing a lift, McCollum came off a screen and drilled a tough superhoop shooting against his body to give Lehigh the lead back.
That got a "Wow" out of Dave.
He then scored Lehigh's next 11 points, including a runner to put Lehigh up 68-64, and another three-pointer in transition that was a stake through Quinnipiac's heart with 1:19 left.
"Impressed yet," I asked and got an approving nod in return.
The stat line by the end of Lehigh's tougher than it looked 77-66 win: 30 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and zero turnovers. In the second half, he had 25 of the Mountain Hawks' 44 points, including 4-of-6 from superhoop land. All without really turning on the gas until he really had to at the end.
When the story of this season is written (hopefully you've been reading it as it develops here at the Mid-majority), this game won't mean much to McCollum, or really anyone else. Listening to the postgame, the Quinnipiac announcers talked about how the real season doesn't start until conference play begins because neither team will get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, and that Quinnipiac can take plenty of positives out of a three-game losing streak that has left them at 2-4.
Which is probably technically correct. But while I plan to see each of these teams again before the end of the season (maybe in their respective conference championship games?), Dave likely won't. To him, this was it.
As we headed back out into the diminished snow (thankfully, it stayed wet and not icy because the TD Bank Center sits on top of a hill which would have been interesting to try to get out of in the ice), the only question left was why it was only $1 to get in.
I asked a couple of the ushers on the way out. Nothing. Asked the woman who sells the programs (which were priced the same as the ticket on the evening). Nada. I saw long-time Quinnipiac athletic director Jack McDonald, but he looked busy.
When I got home and checked the Quinnipiac athletic website, I found my answer, which was kind of disappointing, I was hoping they were selling C.J. McCollum and Lehigh, slayers of Duke, to us.
Maybe next time they'll let me run the sales pitch.
LEHIGH 77, at QUINNIPIAC 66
LEHIGH 5-2 (0-0) -- G. Knutson 6-12 4-5 17; M. McKnight 1-4 5-6 7; C. McCollum 9-18 8-11 30; H. Greiner 3-8 2-2 8; A. D'Orazio 2-4 0-0 5; C. Baltimore 1-2 0-0 2; S. Cvrkalj 1-5 0-0 3; C. Schaefer 2-2 0-0 5; J. Goldsborough 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 19-24 77.
QUINNIPIAC 2-4 (0-0) -- I. Azotam 4-9 5-8 13; J. Jackson 3-5 0-4 6; G. Young 3-13 10-10 16; S. Shannon 2-6 1-4 7; Z. Hearst 5-10 1-2 11; D. Johnson 1-5 2-2 4; O. Drame 2-4 0-0 4; E. Conti 1-2 0-0 3; K. Ray 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-55 19-30 66.
Three-point goals: LEH 8-20 (H. Greiner 0-2; G. Knutson 1-3; C. McCollum 4-7; A. D'orazio 1-2; S. Cvrkalj 1-5; C. Schaefer 1-1), QUIN 3-11 (G. Young 0-4; E. Conti 1-1; Z. Hearst 0-1; S. Shannon 2-5); Rebounds: LEH 28 (C. McCollum 9), QUIN 39 (I. Azotam 13); Assists: LEH 18 (M. McKnight 7), QUIN 14 (S. Shannon 7); Total Fouls -- LEH 20, QUIN 17; Fouled Out: LEH-C. Baltimore; QUIN-None.
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