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January 21, 2012

Francis scores 30, Bulldogs fall in OT

BOBCATS TAKE OVERTIME HEARTBREAKER FROM BULLDOGS, 78-71, SATURDAY

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Down five, 61-56, with less than five minutes to play in regulation, the Bryant University men's basketball team staged a 7-2 run, knotting the score at 63-63 and forcing overtime for the first time this season. But with four players in foul trouble, the Bulldogs would fall short in the extra frame, suffering a heartbreaking 78-71 loss to Quinnipiac Saturday in Northeast Conference play at the Chace Athletic Center.

Sophomore forward Alex Francis (Harlem, N.Y.) recorded his fifth double-double of the season (13th career) and paced the game with a season-high 30 points, a career-best 11 of them coming from the free throw line. His 10 rebounds led a Bryant (2-17, 1-7 NEC) side that saw four finish with double-figure points, including 14 from Raphael Jordan (Bel Air, Md.), 12 from Frankie Dobbs (Berea, Ohio) and 10 from Corey Maynard (Adelaide, Australia), who returned to the lineup for the first time in four outings. Dobbs added a season- and game-high eight assists on the day, never leaving the game in 45-straight minutes of action.

Quinnipiac (10-9, 3-5) saw three finish in double-digits, paced by James Johnson's 23 points, while Ousmane Drame pulled down 13 rebounds to lead the contest on the glass.

With 18.1 seconds to go in regulation and Bryant trailing, 63-61, Quinnipiac's Garvey Young knocked Jordan to the floor just as he released a 3-pointer from the right side, sending the junior guard to the line with the chance to put the Bulldogs on top. Despite missing the first freebie, Jordan made the next two, knotting the score for the 12th time, 63-63, but giving the Bobcats back the ball with just seconds to play.

Going the other way, junior Claybrin McMath (Adelaide, Australia) would make one of the biggest plays of the year, stepping in front of Quinnipiac's top scorer and setting his feet to take the charge, forcing a Bobcat turnover with four ticks left in regulation.

A long trey from junior Frankie Dobbs (Berea, Ohio) would just miss the mark as the buzzer sounded, though, careening off the back of the iron to send the Bulldogs into their first overtime contest of the season.

In the extra frame, the teams continued the back-and-forth trend that marked the entirety of regulation. But with 74 seconds to go, the fifth foul on Maynard led to a three-point play from Zaid Hearst, giving the Bobcats a 74-70 edge. Jordan and rookie Ben Altit (Herzeliya, Israel) would foul out on ensuing plays, and the Bobcats wouldn't miss from the line, completing the heartbreaking 78-71 win.

Quinnipiac would go a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in overtime and convert 75 percent on the day in total (24-32). Bryant would also hit 24 free throws for a 77.4 percent clip. Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field, with the Bobcats just edging the Bulldogs, .394 to .364, and Bryant hit seven 3-pointers to the visitor's two.

The Bobcats would win the battle on the glass in every frame for a 51-34 final margin, and the hosts would allow Quinnipiac 15 points off turnovers and 21 more off offensive rebounds in a game that featured 13 ties and 12 lead changes.

Quinnipiac wasted little time running out to an early lead to start the contest, needing less than eight minutes to work up a nine-point, 15-4 advantage. It would turn out to be the Bobcats' largest lead of the contest.

A 10-0 Bryant run over 3:10 that included back-to-back 3-pointers from Dobbs and Jordan and culminated in a dunk from Francis closed that gap and afforded the Bulldogs their first advantage of the contest with 7:56 to play in the first half, 15-14.

The teams would trade points over the next four minutes, neither side leading by more than a single score, and the Bulldogs took the lead for a second time at the 3:57 mark with Francis's second dunk of the game, this one fed by Maynard, and the sophomore forward completed the 3-point play for good measure.

The 21-20 edge was shortlived, though, and Quinnipiac would regain the top spot on the scoreboard with three minutes left to play, growing its lead to as many as seven before Dobbs finished the half with a pair of free throws to send the hosts to the locker room with just a 34-29 deficit.

Francis's half-high 14 points came off a 6-of-7 mark from the line and a quartet of baskets, while Ike Azotam led the visiting Bobcats with 12 points off 4-of-7 shooting and a 4-for-5 mark from the stripe.

The Bobcats upped their lead to eight less than two minutes into the second half, but a 15-4 run over a six-minute span saw the home side catch up and take its largest lead of the contest, 44-41. Fourteen of the run's points came from the hands of Maynard and Francis.

Three more draws brought the clock down to under eight minutes with the score knotted at 50-50, but Quinnipiac would get the next five points and keep the multipoint edge as the clock ticked below the five-minute mark, setting up Bryant's 7-2 run to the whistle and the eventual overtime loss.

The Bulldogs remain in Smithfield for three more games at the Chace Athletic Center before returning to the road to open February play. Bryant will host intrastate rival Brown in its final non-conference contest of the 2011-12 season Monday night (7 p.m.).

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