Blistering shooting in second half helps Rockhurst overcome physical play, pull away from QU men


Rockhurst's Jake Auer gets knocked to the floor by Quincy University's Mason Wujek during the first half of Thursday night's men's college basketball game at Pepsi Arena. | David Adam

QUINCY — The Quincy University men’s basketball team traded punches (figuratively), verbal barbs and physical play (literally) during the first half of Thursday night’s game with Rockhurst. 

It appeared the trend would continue during the first two minutes of the second half, but Rockhurst took over with an overwhelming shooting performance.

During a 10½-minute stretch in the second half, Rockhurst made 15 of 20 shots from the field (including nine out of 11 from 3-point range) to turn a tie score into a 23-point lead on its way to a 100-79 victory in Pepsi Arena in a Great Lakes Valley Conference game.

Both teams came into the game with 5-6 records in the GLVC. Instead of being in a tie for fifth with William Jewell, Maryville and Missouri-St. Louis, Quincy now sits in 10th place, a half-game behind Truman State. Quincy was in 11th place in the conference’s point rating system entering Thursday’s game.

“There’s eight games left, and because of the point rating system, there’s a bunch of points ahead of us that can be had,” QU coach Steve Hawkins said. “Come Saturday night, a new point rating system will come up. Then next week, it will change again, and then the week after that, it’ll change again. I know we have some good teams coming into here, which puts us in a position to get a lot of points.”

An emotionally and physically draining first half ended with a combined 26 fouls and 34 free throws, with Quincy leading 45-41. Zion Richardson went to the free-throw line 11 times in the first half, making 10, and scored 23 points. However, Quincy’s aggressive play sent Rockhurst to the free-throw line 19 times (with 16 makes).

“We love to be physical, and watching them defend, they get after you,” Rockhurst coach Drew Diener said. “They’ve got some big strong guys. We beat them at our place (on Jan. 3), and I’m guessing Coach (Hawkins) was emphasizing the fact that we can’t win the physicality battle, and they brought some intensity. I mean, that was a tough, chippy game both ways.”

The Hawks only went to the free-throw line six times in the second half, making three. Rockhurst shot 31 free throws in the game to just 21 for Quincy.

“It wasn’t like we were going to pull away in the first half, but their free throws kept them in the game,” Hawkins said. “When we were driving, we weren’t getting the calls. When they were driving, they were getting the calls.

“We were trying to be physical. That’s what they do, and we had to match that physicality. Then in the second half, everything flipped. They were the more aggressive team. They got up into us, and we weren’t able to run our offense.”

Quincy turned the ball over five times in the first five minutes of the second half while Rockhurst was heating up. A 47-41 Quincy lead was quickly erased by a 19-4 run by Rockhurst, which ended with Timaris Brown draining a 3-pointer from the volleyball spike line.

Quincy stayed within 65-56 after Nate Shockey made a 3-pointer with 12:57 remaining in the game, but Rockhurst rattled off 22 of the game’s next 30 points to go ahead 87-64. The visitors made 10 3-pointers in the second half.

“Some of those were closely guarded,” Hawkins said. “That’s what they do when they’re shooting it well. That impact led to confidence and momentum that completely shifted to them.”

“That was on us,” Richardson said. “We dominated the first half. We didn’t really dominate the second half. We just allowed them to get comfortable.”

Miles White scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half for Rockhurst, making four 3-pointers. Jake Auer added 23 points, and Brown scored 19. Rockhurst shot 54 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line to become the second team this season to score 100 or more points against Quincy.

“The guys are really buying into being unselfish and not caring who’s taking the threes,” Diener said. “It’s fun to see them celebrate that. Selfless play makes guys feel good about making shots.”

Richardson finished with a career-high 33 points, and Shockey contributed 17. 

“Everyone’s just got to stay together, keeping our poise and keeping our faith,” Richardson said. “We have to keep moving forward and take it day by day. We’re going to be alright.”

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