Men's Basketball: Vermont overcomes UNHBy MICHAEL ABELSON
Special to the Union Leader
January 19. 2018 2:31AM
DURHAM — For 20 minutes of basketball Thursday night, it looked like the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team was ready to give the reigning America East champions a run.
Unfortunately, there were 20 minutes to play and that was enough for Vermont.
The Catamounts outscored New Hampshire by 13 in the second half to turn a two-point halftime deficit into a convincing 67-56 win at Lundholm Gym.
“Hard fought win tonight against a good UNH team,” Vermont coach John Becker said. “Both teams off to a slow start in the first half. I thought in the second half we had to score the ball better and be tough in the paint. The second half we kind of opened it up a little bit.”
The Catamounts ran an isolation-heavy offense through its guards after halftime and UNH had no answer. Senior guard Trae Bell-Haynes had 18 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, and the duo of Cam Ward and Ernie Duncan combined for 16 points after intermission. Duncan and Ward finished with 17 and 10 points, respectively.
Vermont outrebounded New Hampshire by six in the second half and shot 65 percent from the field.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said. “We got thoroughly outplayed in the second half, out-toughed in the second half. We tried to pride ourselves on our defense and we couldn’t guard them. That was the difference in the game. That’s why they are who they are. That’s why they win championships. They have championship blood in their system. That’s something we don’t have.”
It looked good in the first half as New Hampshire kept the energy up on both ends of the floor and kept Vermont off balance. Senior forward Tanner Leissner had 11 of his 14 points in the first half. UNH went into the break with a 27-25 lead.
UNH kept it close early in the second half. The score was tied at 39 with 15 minutes left, but a 17-5 run opened up a 12-point Vermont lead with seven minutes left. UNH shot 33 percent from the field in the half.
“I feel like shots weren’t falling,” Leissner said. “I felt like the ball became stagnant. We didn’t get their defense moving, and it made it easier for them to guard us.”
One of the lone bright spots after halftime was John Ogwuche. After setting a career-high in points in his last game, Ogwuche reset the record with a team-high 17 points including 12 in the second half.
The rest of New Hampshire’s guards combined for nine total points.
“My job is first off defensively (to) try to bring the energy,” Ogwuche said. “If you don’t get stops you can’t do anything on offense. Coach always tells us we don’t have to worry about offense. As long as we stick to our defensive principles offense is going to be there for us.”
The loss snaps New Hampshire’s three-game win streak and drops it to 7-12, 3-2 in America East. The Wildcats get back to the court Sunday afternoon when they host Stony Brook.
“We’re getting better,” Herrion said. “We’re a better basketball team than we were in December. If you’re going to be a really good basketball team you’ve got to win home games. They were the tougher basketball team.”