Newburgh, New York.
28,000 people call the town on the western shore of the Hudson River, opposite Beacon, home, but it felt like the whole town was behind a native son on the other side of the river on Friday night.
In front of “over 50” friends and family members, Amarri Tice made his triumphant return to the region that he calls home and led Quinnipiac with 20 points and 15 rebounds in a 66-55 win over Marist in Poughkeepsie.
“Everybody was there, you name ‘em they were there,” Tice said. “Mom, dad, uncle, friends, cousins, aunts, nieces, nephews, everybody.”
Feeding off of the energy from his entourage, Tice and the Bobcats improved to 4-1 in MAAC play and 12-4 overall.
“Having fans in the crowd it felt like a home game,” Tice said. “I’d score and I’d hear people cheering and supporting me and the team.”
Tice’s cheering section, opposite the Quinnipiac bench in the stands, gave him a mild ovation when he was announced as a starter, but got louder as the game went on.
Within 26 seconds, Quinnipiac had forced two turnovers with a full-court press, and Tice was on the board. The Bobcats jumped out to a 6-0 lead.
Despite the healthy Newburgh contingent, Marist brought a great crowd as well. McCann Arena was hopping as the Foxes embarked on a 17-0 run to take a 21-10 lead in the first half, holding Quinnipiac without a field goal for over 10 minutes.
Marist’s young backcourt forced national assist leader, Savion Lewis, a sixth-year senior, to turn the ball over seven times, keeping Quinnipiac away from what they typically like to do.
“John [Dunne] did a great job bringing the weak side defender into the lane to take away our pick-and-roll stuff,” Bobcat head coach Tom Pecora said. “We were trying to squeeze it in there instead of skipping to the weak side.”
Despite Marist’s strong run, Quinnipiac responded, keeping the game within four at halftime at 33-29.
“We had a good last four minutes [of the first half],” Pecora said. “It got us back into the game where we weren’t going to be chasing down 10, and I thought we were in good shape in that regard.”
At the outset of the second half, Tice began to flex his muscles. While eight points and five rebounds in the first half is nothing to scoff at, he was very loose with the ball, turning it over four times. When that tightened up, Marist had few answers.
“I just didn’t force anything,” Tice said. “We just went out there and played Quinnipiac basketball.”
In the second half alone, Tice had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Quinnipiac rode the Wofford transfer to a dominant second half, outsourcing Marist 37-22.
As the hometown kid became comfortable, so too did Lewis, who had to resort more to his scoring abilities than his passing. Early in the second half, Quinnipiac’s point guard burst to his left past Isaiah Brickner and finished at the rim around Max Allen to tie the game at 40.
Tice’s pivotal second-half game-tying basket came just a few minutes later. He received a flip pass from Lewis and exploded past the Marist defense, scoring easily with his left hand, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
His resilience and steadiness may have been the key to keep the Bobcats going.
“I’ve learned to control my anger [over the last few months],” Tice said. “I tend to get worked up a little bit, but I’ve definitely controlled that and just played hard.”
Channeling his energy into positive play earned him high praise from his coach.
“Amarri was a monster tonight,” Pecora said. “We’ve become very close and we trust each other, that’s the most important thing. Players have to trust you and the decisions you make. Amarri has become a great leader, and I’ve already talked to him about being a captain next year.”
Down the stretch, the margins were thin, and Marist coach John Dunne thought that the Foxes were a little bit unfortunate. He marked the key moments where the game slipped away as a tough pull-up jumper from Lewis with just under four and a half minutes to play and a contested Matt Balanc 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock with under three minutes to play.
“I thought our defense over the course of 40 minutes was pretty good,” Dunne said. “But we have to do a better job if we’re going to win games in this league. We just didn’t make enough shots on offense. We had a really good week of practice, we competed well tonight, and as long as we do that, we’ll continue to grow.”
Other notes around the MAAC from Friday
- Niagara ended Fairfield’s eight-game winning streak with a 96-72 blowout victory. The Purple Eagles shot 10-for-15 from beyond the arc and had five different players in double figures. Greg Paulus’ team has now won three consecutive MAAC games. The Stags obliterated both Siena and Marist last weekend but couldn’t keep up with the wild Niagara scoring pace on Friday.
- Despite 30 points and 12 rebounds from Sean Durugordon, who is the first Siena player to have 20 points in each of his first five games for the program in Division I, the Saints fell to Canisius. The Griffs were able to win despite Siem Uijtendaal and Tre Dinkins shooting a combined 6-for-25 from the field. Siena has dropped eight in a row and falls to 2-13.
- Mervin James continued to back up his Preseason MAAC Player of the Year selection with a 27-point outburst to lead Rider over Manhattan. The Jaspers were without star freshman Seydou Traore, but the Broncs still had to fight for it. The game was tied at 33 at halftime, but Rider burst forward in the second half to win its second consecutive game.