MEN'S BASKETBALL FACES OFF WITH FORDHAM ON DEC. 23

COMPLETE NOTES | LIVE STATS | LIVE AUDIO | LIVE VIDEO

DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire men's basketball team will face off up with Fordham University on Tuesday, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Rose Hill Gym. The game will be broadcast live on WFUV, with the link available at www.UNHWildcats.com. The meeting will mark the first ever between the Wildcats and Rams in the history of the two programs.

LAST TIME OUT

Sophomore guard Alvin Abreu led three scorers in double-digits with 19 points, but the Wildcats dropped a 76-72 decision to Long Island University on Feb. 13 at the Wellness Center.   

The Wildcats fell to 3-5 on the season, while the Blackbirds upped their record to 3-5.   

Abreu, the America East Player of the Game, added five rebounds and five assists. Senior guard Tyrece Gibbs, who became the 26th 1,000-point scorer in program history, finished with 15 points and four rebounds, while junior guard Radar Onguetou poured in 14 points – one shy of his career high – to go along with eight rebounds and three assists.   

Trailing 57-50 with 4:41 to go in the game, UNH received a huge 3-pointer from Abreu, who scored 17 of his points in the second half, to cut its deficit to four. The trey sparked a run that saw Abreu score nine straight points for the Wildcats over a span of 2:31. Abreu then hit a layup with 3:36 left make the score 57-55, but UNH wound up trading both buckets out after a Julian Boyd layup and Kyle Johnson 3-pointer pushed the LIU lead back to seven (62-55) with 3:00 to play.   

Abreu then hit a pair of jumpers, sandwiched around a Boyd free throw, to cut the Blackbird lead to 63-59 with 2:10 on the clock. Just under 30 seconds later Boyd converted a three-point play the old fashioned way to push the Long Island lead back to seven at 66-59. Sophomore guard Tyrone Conley came back with a 3-pointer with just under a minute left to cut the deficit back to four. Johnson then hit a pair of free throws that gave the Blackbirds a 68-62 lead with 49 seconds remaining and started a streak of 10 straight makes from the line for LIU.   

Eight seconds later, Abreu found sophomore center Dane DiLiegro underneath for a layup that brought UNH to within four. Two more LIU free throws pushed the lead back to six before Abreu nailed his third and final 3 of the game to make it 70-67 with 36 ticks on the clock. Another pair of Blackbird free throws bumped their lead up to five, but again the Wildcats struck back with a trifecta, this time it was Gibbs who sliced the lead to 72-70 with 28 seconds left and broke the 1,000-point plateau with the trey. Gibbs finished the game with 1,002 points and is 25th on UNH’s all-time scoring list.   

The two teams then traded scores, with two LIU free throws being offset by a Brian Benson slam off a nice feed from Conley. Another set of Long Island free throws brought the score to 76-72 with 18 seconds left. Boyd came up with a big block, but then missed two free throws at the other end to give UNH a fighting chance. A missed 3 and then a missed layup off the offensive rebound, however, sealed the game for the Blackbirds.   

Conley chipped in with seven points, four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal, while DiLiegro posted six points and seven rebounds.   

The two teams battled back and forth to open the game, with UNH grabbing a 16-15 lead midway through the first half. A 10-0 LIU run, however, gave the Blackbirds a 25-16 lead with 5:36 to play in the opening frame. The Wildcats came right back with a 7-0 run, capped by an Abby Kabba dunk, to get them within two (25-23) with 2:51 to go. LIU knocked down a 3-pointer before the two teams traded scores twice to close the scoring and go to the break with the Blackbirds on top 34-29.   

UNH opened the second stanza with an Onguetou 3 that brought them to within two, before Abreu tied the game at 34 with a layup 1:04 in. A 10-1 Long Island run made it 44-35 with 15:05 left in the game. Gibbs’ layup with 14:43 sparked a 10-2 Wildcat run that cut their deficit to one (46-45) with 11:31 remaining. Johnson knocked down a 3 to push the LIU lead to four before DiLiegro erased it with a layup and a free throw after he was fouled. Johnson hit two straight buckets before the teams traded baskets to make it 55-50 with 5:32 left. LIU added a pair of free throws to bring the score to 57-50 before Abreu led UNH’s comeback.         

Johnson led way for LIU with 25 points. Boyd and Jaytornah Wisseh also scored in double-digits with 10 points a piece.   

The Wildcats shot 48 percent (28-59) from the field, their best mark since they shot 55 percent (38-69) in the season-opener versus Suffolk. Long Island shot 44 percent (26-59) from the floor. The battle on the boards was nearly even, with LIU holding a 37-36 edge.

GRAND THREE-PEAT

Tyrece Gibbs became the 26th Wildcat in program history to score 1,000 points in a career when he knocked down a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in the game against Long Island on Dec. 13. This marks the third straight season the Wildcats have seen one of their players reach the 1,000-point plateau. Blagoj Janev, who is currently fourth on UNH’s all-time scoring list with 1,340 points, recorded his 1,000th during the 2006-07 season, while Mike Christensen, 17th with 1,087 points, tallied his 1,000th last season.

BENCHWARMER? ABREU HEATING UP OFF THE PINE

In UNH’s first two games this season, Alvin Abreu was in the starting lineup and averaged 9.5 points per game. Since then, head coach Bill Herrion made the decision to bring Abreu off the bench and it has paid off. Abreu has averaged 13.0 points per game, including 15.3 per game in his last three contests.

SEEING DOUBLE

Tyrece Gibbs, who set a career high with seven straight double-digit scoring games from Feb. 20, 2008-Nov. 29, 2008, has now scored in double figures in 10 of his last 11 games dating back to last season, including six of seven this season.

NEW 3-POINT THREAT FOR WILDCATS?

Radar Onguetou might be spending a little too much time with Tyrece Gibbs and the rest of the Wildcats’ dangerous perimeter shooters. After sinking a total of three 3-pointers in his career, Onguetou knocked down a career-high two in consecutive games. The powerful forward was 2-for-4 from behind the arc Dec. 3 at Colgate and 2-for-3 Dec. 6 versus Brown. Onguetou was hitting them in the clutch as well, tying the game at 51 with 7:18 to go against Brown and then giving UNH a 62-58 lead with 1:36 left.

NATIONALLY RANKED

UNH is ranked within the top 100 teams in the country in a handful of categories. The Wildcats are 14th in 3-point field goals per game (9.8), 17th in turnovers per game (11.5), 76th in turnover margin (+2.7),  84th in scoring defense (63.0 ppg) and 97th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.04). Individually, Tyrece Gibbs is 41st in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (46.2) and 55th in 3-point field goals per game (3.0).

TREY-MENDOUS STREAK FOR 'CATS

Heading into today’s contest UNH has recorded at least one 3-pointer in 500 consecutive games, a streak that spans 17 years. The last time the ‘Cats did not tally a trey was in a 59-47 loss to Dartmouth College on Jan. 8, 1991, when they were 0-for-3 from behind the arc. The NCAA record is currently 677 games by UNLV, a streak that started Nov. 26, 1986 and is still active.

TY-RRIFIC

Tyrece Gibbs is penciling his name in all over UNH’s record books. Last season, Gibbs drained 83 3-pointers, which is the second most in a single UNH season and just four off the record. Gibbs also registered the third most 3-point attempts (204) in a season and played the third most minutes (1,038) in a season. The guard is currently fourth all-time on UNH’s 3-pointers made list (167), fifth in 3-point attempts (417) and fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (.400). Gibbs, who is 13 points shy of 1,000 for his career, is also close to moving into the top 10 in field goals made, field goals attempted, assists, blocks, games played and total minutes.

GOLDEN GRAHAM

Russell Graham, making his third consecutive start at the point, put together a career night against powerhouse Rhode Island, setting personal bests in points (9), assists (5), steals (2), free throws made (3) and minutes (29).

R.I. – SING STAR

After setting career highs in points (6), rebounds (5), free throws made (2) and minutes (25) against Rhode Island on Dec. 9, all of Brian Benson’s career highs have now come against teams from the state of Rhode Island. Benson handed out the lone assist of his young career and recorded two steals and two blocks versus Brown on Dec. 6. Benson is also one of four Wildcats to score in every game he has played in, joining some pretty good company in Tyrece Gibbs, Tyrone Conley and Alvin Abreu.

POWERFUL RAMS

Rhode Island is the highest RPI-ranked team the Wildcats have played this season at 37th. The Rams have also played some opponents that are on UNH’s schedule, including Penn State (W 77-72), Brown (W 76-74) and Hartford (W 94-72). The Wildcats, who are ranked 197th out of 343 teams in the rankings, a big improvement thus far over last year’s finish of 300 out of 341, lost to Penn State, 70-50, beat Brown, 64-61, and will meet Hartford twice in conference play.

'CATS "BEAR" DOWN AGAINST BROWN

UNH’s 64-61 win versus Brown on Dec. 6 was the Wildcats’ first win in five tries against the Bears. UNH’s most recent win before that came in a 77-71 victory at Lundholm on Nov. 14, 1998.

BREAKING THE ICE

Not only was UNH’s win against Colgate on Dec. 3 its first victory versus a Division I team this season, but it also marked a first in numerous other categories, including its first win on the road, in December, on a Wednesday, in a night game, against a team under .500, when its opponent scores first, in a game decided by less than six points, when outscored in the paint and off the bench, when outrebounded and when committing more turnovers than its opponent.

JUST BE YOURSELF

In their win against Colgate on Dec. 3, the Wildcats finally looked like the same team from last year that was seventh in the country in 3-pointers per game (9.5) and 81st in 3-point field goal percentage (37.2). The ‘Cats shot 50 percent (12-24) from behind the arc against Colgate and were shooting it so well in the first half that seven of their eight field goals in that frame were 3s.

DOING A LOT WITH A LITTLE

Although Rony Tchatchoua only recorded one point and four rebounds in UNH’s win at Colgate on Dec. 3, he may have had the biggest point and rebound of the game. With the Wildcats up by two with 13 seconds remaining, Colgate’s Mike Venezia took a 3-pointer to try and put his team in front, but he missed and Tchatchoua ripped down the rebound in a sea of Colgate players. Tchatchoua then went to the line and hit one of two to force Colgate to drain a 3 just to tie. Venezia’s attempt went long as time expired, making Tchatchoua’s effort stand up.

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

Alvin Abreu broke out for the first time this season Nov. 29 at Marist, scoring a UNH season-high 22 points  – one shy of his career high – on 7 of 14 shooting. Abreu, who netted 17 of his points in the second half to lead the UNH comeback, hit a career-high seven free throws and was 6 of 7 from the stripe down the stretch.

COMEBACK KIDS

Although they wound up losing to Marist, 63-61, Nov. 29, the Wildcats fought hard the final 12 minutes to claw their way back into the game. UNH trailed by 19 – 54-35 – with 12:21 to play, but ripped off a 17-2 run to pull within 56-52 with 4:24 on the clock. Eight points from Alvin Abreu, six from Dane DiLiegro and a 3-pointer from Russell Graham, combined with stifling defense that held Marist without a bucket for 8:51, powered the run. An Abreu trey with four seconds left put the Wildcats down 62-61, but that was close as they would get.

TACKLING THE TOP COMPETITION

Head coach Bill Herrion is not afraid to take on some of the toughest competition in the country. Since his arrival in Durham prior to the 2005-06 season, the Wildcats have taken on Big East foes UConn, Providence and Rutgers, as well as ACC power Boston College on two occassions. This season, UNH continues down that road with matchups against Big Ten member Penn State and Atlantic 10 foes Rhode Island and Fordham. The Wildcats also faced URI last season when the A10 was ranked the seventh-best conference in the nation; the Big Ten was sixth.

HANGIN' TOUGH

UNH held the lead against Penn State for the greatest length of time of any of the Nittany Lions’ first four opponents of the season. The Wildcats led for 12:25 in their game with PSU, which won all four games. UNH’s America East-foe Hartford held the advantage for just 1:18, NJIT led for 26 seconds and William & Mary never led in their contest.

MAKE THE MOST WITH WHAT YOU'RE GIVEN

Abby Kabba received his first dose of major playing time against Penn State on Nov. 23 as he played a career-high 26 minutes. Kabba made the most of the playing time as he ripped down a team- and career-high seven rebounds, while also chipping in offensively with two points. Kabba then added a career-high five points Nov. 29 at Marist. In the two games prior, Kabba had solid production for the time he played as he notched seven points and five rebounds in 14 minutes of action.

CONLEY HAS HIS OWN NUMBER

Tyrone Conley scored 21 points versus Harvard on Nov. 19, matching his jersey number. The 21 points tied the season high for a Wildcat this year, and was one point shy of Conley’s personal best.

HITTING THE CENTURY MARK

In their 101-50 win versus Suffolk on Nov. 16, the Wildcats won their second straight home-opener by scoring 100 points for the first time since a 106-103 win at Maine in four overtimes Jan. 19, 1996. The last time UNH compiled at least 100 points in regulation was Nov. 27, 1994 in a 104-97 win at Hofstra. The most recent time a Lundholm crowd witnessed a 100-point game from the Wildcats was in a 113-111 overtime win against Delaware on Feb. 26, 1995. The last time the Wildcats scored 100 points in regulation at Lundholm? You would have to go back to Dec. 29, 1983 in a 102-82 win over Fairfield. The 51-point margin of victory is also the largest for the ‘Cats since the 1941-42 season – and possibly ever. Records prior to that season are incomplete. UNH set the previous mark last season in a 95-46 win versus Suffolk.

GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT

The Wildcats won their first season-opener since the 2004-05 season when they beat Suffolk, 101-50, to open up the 2008-09 campaign Nov. 16. It was UNH’s second straight home-opening win.

ABREU ONE OF TOP FRESHMEN LAST SEASON

At the end of last season, Alvin Abreu was named a CollegeHoops.net Honorable Mention Mid-Major All-Freshman. Abreu, who was a three-time America East Rookie of the Week during the season (Dec. 10, Jan. 7, Feb. 25), was also named to the America East All-Rookie Team before the start of the tournament.   

Abreu, who was one of just two freshman, and four players overall, to play in all 29 games for the Wildcats, led all America East rookies and was second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg). He also led the team in free throw percentage (.818), was second in 3-pointers made (62) and was fourth in rebounding (3.8 rpg) and assists (1.8 apg). The 62 treys are tied for the eighth most in a single season at UNH, while the free throw percentage of 81.8 is the 10th-best single-season mark in school history.

THREE FOR ALL

Tyrece Gibbs, Alvin Abreu and Tyrone Conley all took home conference hardware at the annual America East banquet last season. Gibbs was named to the America East All-Conference Third Team, while Abreu and Conley were chosen for the All-Rookie Team. UNH was the only team with two of its players to garner spots on the five-member All-Rookie Team.

BENSON'S FAMOUS TEAMMATE

Brian Benson was on the court as a sophomore at Greece-Althena High School when team manager Jason “J-Mac” McElwain, who was diagnosed with autism at an early age, knocked down six 3-pointers in their division title game versus Spencerport on Feb. 16, 2006. The story quickly made national headlines, while McElwain turned into a celebrity overnight. McElwain met President Bush and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, and also appeared on various talk shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, and Today. McElwain even won an ESPY Award for the Best Moment in Sports in 2006.

DILIEGRO TO REPRESENT COUNTRY, RELIGION

In September, Dane DiLiegro was named one of 12 members of the United States men’s basketball team that will compete at the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel from July 12-23, 2009. The announcement was made by the head coach of the U.S. men’s basketball Maccabiah team, Bruce Pearl, who is also the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Tennessee.      

The Maccabiah Games, also referred to as the “Jewish Olympics,” are held in Israel every four years and include the top Jewish athletes from around the world. The 17th games in 2005 attracted the largest Maccabiah attendance in history. With over 50 countries represented by 7,700 athletes, including 900 from the U.S., the Maccabiah Games became the third largest sporting event in the world. This year, the U.S. is looking to take over 1,000 athletes, including Olympic athletes such as swimmers Dara Torres and Jason Lezak.   

DiLiegro becomes the sixth UNH athlete to participate in the Maccabiah Games, including the first basketball player.   

DiLiegro joins Duke’s Jon Scheyer and Arizona State’s Derek Glasser on the team, which won gold in 2001 and bronze at the previous Games in 2005. By making the U.S. squad, DiLiegro joins some elite company, including Dolph Schayes, one of the 50 Greatest NBA players of all-time, Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown, and Mark Spitz, who won a then-record seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, an achievement surpassed only when Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal of the 2008 Olympics.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

The Wildcats welcome in five newcomers this season, including a pair who have been around the program before this year. Junior Colbey Santos is eligible to play after sitting out last season following his transfer from James Madison University. The 6-foot-5-inch Santos will provide another athletic body and a deadly shooting ability to aid the Wildcats’ offensive attack. Freshman Ryan Herrion, the son of head coach Bill Herrion, played at Dover (N.H.) High School where he averaged 25.0 points and 5.0 assists per game last season en route to being named the Foster’s Daily Democrat Dream Team Player of the Year. Herrion, a 6-0, 165-pound walk-on, will add depth on the perimeter for the Wildcats.   

Freshmen Russell Graham, a 6-0, 185-pound guard, also joins the Wildcat back court. Graham is a tough, heady point guard and a solid defender who comes from a very successful high school program. Graham played at Norristown (Pa.) High School, where he averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists during his career. The Eagles finished 32-2 last season after an undefeated regular season in which Graham was named League Player of the Year, Times Herald Co-Player of the Year and First Team All-Area.    

The Wildcats also add Abby Kabba and Brian Benson to the mix in the front court. Kabba, a 6-6, 210-pound junior, is a quick, jack-of-all-trades type player; a good rebounder and solid defender. Kabba played his first two seasons at Northern Oklahoma, a junior college, where he averaged 6.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game last season. The 6-8, 190-pound Benson played at Greece-Althena High School, where he holds the record for most offensive rebounds in a season. Benson, a long and athletic freshman who is a very good rebounder and shot blocker, averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season en route to being named Monroe County Division II Player of the Year and an All-Greater Rochester First Team member.

2008-09 OUTLOOK

University of New Hampshire men’s basketball head coach Bill Herrion enters his fourth season at the helm with what is the most quality depth the program has possessed during his tenure. With eight letterwinners – including four starters – returning, combined with five impact newcomers, the Wildcats should be much improved and in contention for their first America East title.

Despite losing 1,000-point scorer Mike Christensen and hard-working walk-on Shawn Tobey, the Wildcats bring back nearly their entire roster, led by senior guard Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass.) and junior forward Radar Onguetou (Yaounde, Cameroon). Gibbs was a workhorse for the Wildcats last season, playing in all 29 games while averaging a team-best 35.8 minutes per contest. The America East All-Conference Third Team honoree did it all in 2007-08, leading the squad in scoring (14.4 ppg), 3-point field goal percentage (.407), assists (3.1 apg) and blocks (0.62 bpg). Onguetou returns at full strength this season after being limited to just four games last year due to a knee injury. A naturally gifted rebounder who averaged nearly five boards per game in the four contests he appeared in, Onguetou will bring much-needed leadership and toughness back into the Wildcat frontcourt.

Gibbs will be joined in the backcourt by fellow senior Eric Gilchrese (Springfield, Ill.). Last season – his first with the Wildcats – the point guard poured in 10.2 points per game while leading the team in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.48) and steals (1.54 spg). Gilchrese showed his toughness as well, playing 28-of-29 games despite dealing with an injury down the stretch. Also returning are sophomore guards and 2008 America East All-Rookie Team members Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) and Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.). Abreu, who was also selected as a CollegeHoops.net Honorable Mention Mid-Major All-Freshman, led all America East rookies and was second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg). Abreu played in all 29 contests while splitting time between the one- and two-guard spots for the Wildcats. Conley showed off his athleticism and leaping ability while averaging 8.8 points per game last season. Conley appeared in 27 games despite battling illness for nearly a month. The Wildcats also have 6-foot-5-inch Colbey Santos (Onset, Mass.) eligible to play after sitting out last season following his transfer from James Madison University. Santos will provide another athletic body and a deadly shooting ability to aid the Wildcats’ offensive attack. The program also welcomes two other newcomers into the backcourt in freshmen Russell Graham (Norristown, Pa.) and Ryan Herrion (Dover, N.H.). The 6-0, 185-pound Graham is a tough, heady point guard and a solid defender who comes from a very successful high school program. Graham played at Norristown (Pa.) High School, where he averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists during his career. The Eagles finished 32-2 last season after an undefeated regular season in which Graham was named League Player of the Year, Times Herald Co-Player of the Year and First Team All-Area. Herrion, the son of head coach Bill Herrion, played at Dover (N.H.) High School where he averaged 25.0 points and 5.0 assists per game last season en route to being named the Foster’s Daily Democrat Dream Team Player of the Year. Herrion, a 6-0, 165-pound walk-on, will add depth on the perimeter for the Wildcats.

The UNH frontcourt will once again be anchored in the middle by sophomore center Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.). DiLiegro played in all 29 contests last season, while leading all America East rookies and the team in rebounding (6.3 rpg). The big man recorded six double-digit rebound games, including his first career double-double. Sophomores Rony Tchatchoua (Douala, Cameroon) and James Valladares (Kaufman, Texas) also return to provide big bodies and quality depth in the frontcourt. Tchatchoua played in 23 games while averaging 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game off the bench. Valladares, who added muscle and improved his game during the offseason, saw action in 26 games, providing a valuable 9.6 minutes per game off the bench while backing up DiLiegro at center. The Wildcats also add newcomers Abby Kabba (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Brian Benson (Rochester, N.Y.) to the mix. Kabba, a 6-6, 210-pound junior, is a quick, jack-of-all-trades type player; a good rebounder and solid defender. Kabba played his first two seasons at Northern Oklahoma, a junior college, where he averaged 6.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game last season. The 6-9, 205-pound Benson played at Greece-Althena High School, where he holds the record for most offensive rebounds in a season. Benson, a long and athletic freshman who is a very good rebounder and shot blocker, averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season en route to being named Monroe County Division II Player of the Year and an All-Greater Rochester First Team member.

With greater depth, a solid nucleus and a group of talented athletes, the 2008-09 Wildcats should be in the mix for the America East title.

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