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UNH men's hoop in a tough stretch

Special to the Union Leader

February 18. 2018 12:29AM

Another week, another dose of head scratching for the University of New Hampshire men's basketball team.

The Wildcats lost to UMBC at home last Sunday and, despite leading midway through the second half, lost by double digits at Vermont on Thursday night. With three games left in conference play, New Hampshire sits 6-7 in America East and needs a whole lot of help if it wants to host a first-round game in the conference tournament for the fourth year in a row.

After a three-game win streak in January, the Wildcats are 3-6 in their last nine. They hope to right the ship today at Stony Brook.

"I think right now it's more mentally where we're at," UNH coach Bill Herrion said after the Vermont game. "How hard do we play? Are we ready to play? I think we did some good things tonight. We had two turnovers at the half. We did a lot of good things. We just can't play 40 minutes."

Finding that 40-minute game has been like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for UNH, and with three games left before the conference tournament the Wildcats will need to find a consistency they haven't had all season.

A part of that has been finding a consistent rotation. Most teams will have its player rotation set at this point in the season but UNH is still searching. The Wildcats have used 14 starting lineups so far this season.

Junior guard Jordan Reed, who has been in a majority of those lineups, said that it's a next-man-up mentality for the Wildcats.

"It just depends on what you do when you get out there," Reed said. "If you come off the bench and do well you'll stay in the game. If you start well you're going to stay in the game."

The one constant in the lineup has been young guards. Twelve of the 14 starting lineups this season for the Wildcats have featured a freshman guard. Elijah Jordan and Josh Hopkins have each been in seven of the lineup groups.

"We've had to play the young guards because that's what we have," Herrion said. "The positive is that they've gotten unbelievable experience, which is going to help them down the road in the future, but we're probably paying a price (now). Where their youth shows up is defensively. That's where they're hurting us. When you're playing a team with juniors, seniors, guys that have been to the NCAA Tournament (it's difficult)."

With senior leaders like Tanner Leissner who has scored in double figures every game this season, and Iba Camara, who is closing in on 1,000 career rebounds, providing consistent minutes and leadership on the floor, it's necessary for the backcourt to do it's part down the stretch.

Someone who has been improving each week throughout the season has been sophomore guard John Ogwuche. Ogwuche has matured into one of the team's top defensive players and has become a scoring threat both from three and driving the lane.

"I love the way John plays," Reed said. "I love how aggressive he is. He's a freak athlete so he can make any type of athletic play. I love the way he's playing."

The Wildcats will look to start righting the ship today on Long Island when they play at Stony Brook.

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