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Men's Basketball: Wildcat hoopsters 'flat' in loss to American U.

Special to the Union Leader

November 22. 2017 1:17AM

DURHAM — After taking eighth-ranked Florida to the limit on Sunday in front of 10,000 fans, the New Hampshire men’s basketball team returned home and proceeded to lay an egg on its home floor.

The Wildcats trailed by as many as 19 points, and, despite battling back to take the lead in the second half, the ’Cats couldn’t hold on as they surrendered the final seven points of the game and lost to the Eagles 74-70 before 474 fans at Lundholm Gym.

“The positive that I think you take out of tonight was that we did not quit,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said. “We were a very flat basketball team, and I will take responsibility for that. We could not guard them man to man. We could not stop them.”

American, of the Patriot League, took the lead, and earned the victory, on the shoulders of its backcourt. Sa’eed Nelson led all scorers with 26 points and Larry Motuzis had 20 for the Eagles. The pair each made four three-pointers.

Motuzis and Nelson combined for all seven of American’s points down the stretch.

“They’re going to carry a lot of the load,” American coach Mike Brennan said of his guards. “We need them to score.”

The highlight for the Wildcats was the comeback in the second half, which came after New Hampshire switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone. The zone jammed the Eagles and allowed the Wildcats to rally.

UNH’s offense ran through senior center Iba Camara, who had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Fellow senior Tanner Leissner had 18 points but made only two field goals.

“Iba was terrific,” Herrion said. “He really, really played from the opening tip to the final horn.”

The bench was also a strong point for the Wildcats. UNH got 17 points from the bench, led by eight points from sophomore John Ogwuche. Graduate student Keon Burns made two huge three-pointers during the comeback and played strong defense in 17 minutes of action.

“I think the bench is something, if we want to be successful, we have to develop and rely on if we want to make an impact,” Burns said. “Tonight we had a few kids who were able to come in and spark (us).”

Despite hanging its hat on rebounding and defense, neither was a strong point for New Hampshire. UNH was minus-4 in the turnover department and the teams tied with 36 rebounds apiece. American outrebounded the Wildcats on the offensive glass, 10-9.

“It was a tough one,” Camara said. “I feel like we weren’t ready to play today. I think we’ve got to come out ready and give it all we got even though we’ve been travelling a lot. It doesn’t matter. We just got to be more prepared.”

The Wildcats head back to the road to play Furman on Friday at 1 p.m. at Phil Knight’s PK80 Tournament in Nashville. They stay in Nashville to play Utah State on Saturday at 1 p.m.