January 15. 2018 10:42PM

College Basketball: Leissner, UNH make it three straight

By MICHAEL ABELSON
Special to the Union Leader


TANNER LEISSNER (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER FILE)

LOWELL, Mass. — After winning four games the first two months of the season, the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team has won three in 11 days.

The Wildcats led from wire to wire as a team performance powered the Wildcats to a 74-62 win over UMass Lowell on Monday afternoon at the Tsongas Center. The win was New Hampshire’s third straight America East Conference win; the ’Cats are 3-1 in the league, 7-11 overall, and they welcome rival and defending AE champ Vermont to Lundholm Gym on Thursday night.

“Proud of our guys,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said. “We really came ready to play. That’s our first road win of the year. I told the kids in the locker room we came in here 2-1 in the league. I said, ‘Now if we want to be a player in this league, you have to be able to go on the road and win.’”

The Wildcats led by as many as 23 points and the lead was never in single digits in the second half. Lowell closed the gap to 10 three minutes into the second half, but UNH responded with eight straight points to open the lead back to 18.

Like many times in his college career, as went Tanner Leissner, so went the Wildcats. The senior led all scorers with 26 points. He finished the double-double with 12 rebounds and also added three assists. It was the 33rd time in his career that Leissner scored 20 or more points.

Beyond Leissner’s strong game on the inside, the Wildcats got strong games all over the floor. Senior center Iba Camara matched his season high with 17 rebounds while grad student Jacoby Armstrong put in 10 points and Darryl Stewart added 11.

Sophomore guard John Ogwuche scored a career-high 15 points in his 10th start of the year. “Coach has been telling me in practice to let it come to you and let the offense flow,” Ogwuche said. “I think that’s what I did tonight.”

The Wildcats shot 51.9 percent in the first half and opened up a 41-26 halftime lead that they maintained until the final horn. UNH held Lowell to 38.8 percent shooting from the field and had a strong game defending the perimeter, holding Lowell to 2-for-15 from beyond the arc.

The defense was coupled by another terrific rebounding effort. The Wildcats outrebounded Lowell 44-27, including a massive 17-7 advantage on the offensive glass. Those offensive boards turned into 21 second-chance points for New Hampshire.

Lowell was led by 22 points from senior Jahad Thomas, but the River Hawks did not have another scorer in double digits.

The three-game win streak is the longest for the Wildcats since winning six straight across February and March of last season.

“You feel better when you win, but even when we were losing those games we knew we were right there,” Leissner said. “Now we’re finding ourselves more each game. We know we’re capable of doing good things.”