MEN'S BASKETBALL OPENS CONFERENCE PLAY AGAINST HARTFORD (JAN. 7)

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DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire men's basketball team will kick off conference play when it plays host to the University of Hartford on Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. at Lundholm Gymnasium. The game will be broadcast live on Yahoo! Radio, with the link available at www.UNHWildcats.com. The Wildcats and Hawks will meet for the 50th time ever in the history of the two programs, with Hartford leading the all-time series, 32-17. The meeting is the first for the two teams since last season’s America East quarterfinal matchup.The last nine meetings have been pretty even, with UNH holding a 5-4 advantage despite Hartford having won two straight. Each team has also played well on their home court, as well. The Wildcats have won four straight against the Hawks at Lundholm Gymnasium, while the Hawks have won six straight over the ‘Cats at Chase Arena. Hartford has not won in Durham since an 85-58 win Jan. 28, 2004, and UNH has not won at Hartford since an 80-78 triumph Jan. 12, 2002. The ‘Cats and Hawks have split the regular-season series for the past four seasons. In the most recent meeting March 8, 2008, the second-seeded Hawks defeated the No. 7 Wildcats, 68-65 in the quarterfinal game of the America East tournament at Binghamton University’s Events Center.

Senior forward Mike Christensen posted his third double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman guard Alvin Abreu added 16 points and five rebounds to lead the Wildcats.  

The loss wrapped up the Wildcats’ record at 9-20, including 6-10 in America East, while the Hawks improved to 17-15 overall with a 10-6 conference record and moved on to the semifinal round. The ‘Cats fell to 7-26 all-time in the tournament, including 1-3 against the Hawks. Head Coach Bill Herrion, whose 19 wins make him the all-time winningest coach in America East Championship history, lost to Hartford for the first time in the five games he has faced the Hawks in the tournament.   

The Wildcats trailed by six, 62-56, with 2:44 remaining in the game when they flashed the never-say-die attitude they have shown all season long. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Abreu and junior guard Tyrece Gibbs tied the game for the fourth time with 1:18 left. Joe Zeglinski’s jumper fell as he fell to the ground to put Hartford up 64-62 with 54 seconds left, before Gibbs was fouled going to the hoop. Gibbs missed both, followed by a pair of Morgan Sabia free throws that gave the Hawks a four-point advantage that looked to put the ‘Cats away with 30 seconds on the clock.   

UNH would not go away, however, receiving another Gibbs 3 that cut Hartford’s lead to 66-65 with 19 seconds left. The Wildcats were forced to foul and sent Jaret Von Rosenberg to the line, where he would hit both to put Hartford up by 3 with 17 seconds left.   

With six ticks left, Christensen fired a deep 3 that hit the front of the rim, but caromed straight to a wide open Gibbs on the elbow. His 3 ball hit the back rim, but was tipped by freshman center Dane DiLiegro out to junior guard Eric Gilchrese, who got off one final shot as he was hammered with a second on the clock. The shot did not fall and no call was made, ending UNH’s tough, gritty season.   

Christensen ended his time at UNH the way you would want to close out a career. The senior captain made big play after big play, adding six assists, a steal and two huge blocks on the defensive end. Five of his 11 boards came on the offensive end of the floor. Christensen, who winds up 17th on UNH’s all-time scoring list, ends his career with 1,087 points, 522 rebounds and 213 assists, only the second Wildcat to amass at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in a career.    

UNH had its largest lead of the game, 14-8, just over eight minutes into the game. The Wildcats led 18-13 when a 9-0 Hartford run gave the Hawks a 22-18 lead with 5:30 left in the first half. A Gibbs trey cut the lead to one, and the teams went into the locker room with Hartford leading 32-31.   

With the game tied at 42, Hartford reeled off a 13-2 run that gave it an 11-point lead with 9:17 to go. UNH did not quit as Abreu scored seven straight points on three huge shots to make it 55-51 with just under eight minutes to play. Hartford pushed its lead back to eight, setting the stage for UNH’s final stand.   

DiLiegro ripped down a game-high 12 rebounds, trying his career high. Gibbs, who was in foul trouble most of the night, netted 12 points on four giant 3s, and added four rebounds and four assists.    

Zeglinski led four Hartford scorers in double digits with 22 points and also tallied 11 rebounds. Warren McLendon also posted a double-double for Hartford with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

UNH won the battle on the glass, outrebounding Hartford, 39-31. The Hawks shot 46 percent (22-48) to the Wildcats’ 39 percent (23-59) and turned the ball over three fewer times (8) than the ‘Cats (11).   

The game also marked the final appearance for senior forward Shawn Tobey.

LAST TIME OUT

Sophomore guard Alvin Abreu posted a career-high 28 points to propel the Wildcats to a 58-54 victory over West Coast Conference-power Santa Clara University on Jan. 4 at Lundholm Gymnasium.      

After the first-ever meeting between the two squads, the Wildcats improved to 4-7 on the season, while the Broncos fell to 7-9. The win was the Wildcats’ first ever against a WCC team in three tries, previously falling to St. Mary’s (Dec. 22, 1988) and Gonzaga (Dec. 27, 1993).

Abreu, the America East Player of the Game, knocked down a career-high seven 3-pointers and was perfect from behind the arc, setting a school record for most treys in a game without a miss.

Leading 51-43 with 4:11 to play, the Wildcats saw their largest lead of the game begin to dwindle after an 8-1 Santa Clara run – capped by a Marc Trasolini layup – cut the UNH lead to one with 1:54 left. Senior guard Tyrece Gibbs stepped up, however, sinking a jumper in the paint to stop the bleeding and put UNH on top, 54-51, with 1:06 remaining. Gibbs, who passed Blagoj Janev for third place on UNH’s all-time 3-point field goals list (173) with his lone trey of the game, finished with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. Gibbs now finished with 1,032 points and passed Dirk Koopman (1,023), Paul Dufour (1,026) and Derek Counts (1,026) for 19th place on UNH’s all-time scoring list.

After an SCU free throw made it a two-point game, UNH received a huge bucket from sophomore center Dane DiLiegro to make it 56-52 with 16 seconds left. After Abreu missed a jumper, DiLiegro raced to the bucket and finished with a beautiful put-back that kept the Wildcats in the driver’s seat. The Broncos added a layup with eight-tenths of a second on the clock and fouled Abreu, sending him to the line with two-tenths of a second left. Abreu would hit both free throws to seal the victory.

After trailing 23-22 at the half, the Wildcats came out of the locker room with a vengeance. A 13-4 run, which included a trio of 3-pointers from Abreu, pushed UNH’s lead to 35-27 at 16:29. Following Abreu’s triple that capped the run, the Wildcats and Broncos engaged in a seesaw battle that ended with Abreu’s final trey from the top of the key that made it 45-37 with 8:14 remaining. Five straight SCU points cut its deficit to three just under a minute later, until UNH used a 5-1 stretch to bump its lead back up to eight, 51-43, with just over four minutes left.

The Wildcats jumped out to a quick start in the first half of play, as well. A pair of 3-pointers from Gibbs and Abreu led to an 8-3 run in the first five minutes of play to give the ‘Cats the early lead. The Broncos would respond with a run of their own as they would hold the Wildcats at bay with an 8-2 run to put the score at 11-10 in favor of the visitors at 10:25.

Following the run, a pair of fast-break baskets by sophomore guard Tyrone Conley and junior forward Radar Onguetou would awaken the Wildcats, as they would go on a 12-4 run, capped off by a pair of Gibbs free throws at 2:38, to push the lead to 22-15 in favor of New Hampshire. However, the Broncos would respond by closing out the half on an 8-0 run to take the 23-22 lead into the break.

The Wildcats’ post defense, led by DiLiegro, shut down Santa Clara’s John Bryant, who came into the game averaging 18.7 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. Bryant, who has recorded 10 double-doubles this season, including a pair of 20-20 games, posted his lowest point total of the year, finishing with just seven points and eight rebounds. Trasolini led the Broncos with 24 points and 10 boards.

DiLiegro chipped in with five points and seven rebounds.

ABREU NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Alvin Abreu had a career day on the offensive end of the floor Jan. 4 against Santa Clara. Abreu propelled the Wildcats to a 58-54 victory on their home court with a career-high 28 points on 8 of 14 shooting. The sophomore guard also knocked down a career-best seven 3-pointers and was perfect from deep on the day, setting a school record for most treys in a game without a miss. Abreu also netted his 500th career point and finished the day with 513. For his efforts, Abreu was named America East Co-Player of the Week the following day. The award is the first for Abreu, who was a three-time America East Rookie of the Week last season, as well as an All-Rookie Team member.

WEST COAST PARTY

UNH’s win against Santa Clara – arguably its biggest non-conference victory in nearly 15 years – was the program’s first ever against a West Coast Conference team. The Wildcats had previously lost to St. Mary’s (Dec. 22, 1988) and Gonzaga (Dec. 27, 1993).

PAIR POURING IN POINTS FOR 'CATS

The Wildcats are one of just three teams in the conference to have two players in the top 10 in scoring. Alvin Abreu is eighth at 13.3 points per game, while Tyrece Gibbs is 10th at 12.9 ppg.

TOTAL PACKAGE

Tyrece Gibbs has done it all during his time in a UNH jersey, filling the stat line night in and night out. The effort paid off as Gibbs is just the second Wildcat in history to amass at least 1,000 points, 400 rebounds, 200 assists, 80 steals and 45 blocks. With 1,032 points, 414 rebounds, 204 assists, 80 steals and 45 blocks, Gibbs joins Eric Montanari (92-95), who totaled 1,038 points, 418 rebounds, 217 assists, 93 steals and 47 blocks, on the exclusive list.

NATIONALLY RANKED

UNH is ranked within the top 100 teams in the country in a pair of categories. The Wildcats are 29th in 3-point field goals per game (8.5) and 82nd in turnovers per game (13.2).

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 third all-time on UNH’s 3-pointers made list (173), fifth in 3-point attempts (436), seventh in 3-point field goal percentage (.397) and ninth in blocks (45). Gibbs, who became the 26th Wildcat to score 1,000 points in a career Dec. 13 at Long Island, is also close to moving into the top 10 in field goals made, field goals attempted, assists, games played and total minutes.

TREY-MENDOUS STREAK FOR 'CATS

Heading into today’s contest UNH has recorded at least one 3-pointer in 504 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 683 games by UNLV, a streak that started Nov. 26, 1986 and is still active.

MULTIPLE MILESTONES

Tyrece Gibbs reached a pair of career highs and a handful of milestones against Hofstra on Dec. 27. Gibbs recorded a career-high four steals and and also matched his career high with three blocks, which moved him into ninth place  on UNH’s all-time blocks list with 45. Gibbs posted the 200th assist of his career, becoming just the second Wildcat in history to amass 1,000 points, 200 assists and 45 blocks. The co-captain also moved into a third-place tie with Blagoj Janev on UNH’s all-time 3-point field goals made list (172) with his lone trey of the game. Gibbs, who finished the game with 1,020 points, moved past Marcus Bullock (1,015) and Eric Thielen (1,019) for 22nd on UNH’s all-time scoring list.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR DOUBLE D

Dane DiLiegro notched his second career double-double versus Hofstra on Dec. 27 when he poured in 10 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. The center is now averaging 5.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, better than his numbers of 4.8 points and 5.4 boards per contest at this point last season.

PLAYING WITH PRIDE

Brian Benson knocked down his first career 3-pointer en route to recording a career-high seven points against Hofstra on Dec. 27.

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.

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 three of four games from Dec. 3-13. The powerful forward was 2-for-4 from behind the arc Dec. 3 at Colgate, 2-for-3 Dec. 6 versus Brown and 2-for-3 Dec. 13 at Long Island. 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.

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).

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.

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