DURHAM, N.H. – Senior guard Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass) scored a season-high 21 points to lift the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team to a 55-47 win against the University of Hartford in its conference opener Wednesday night at Lundholm Gymnasium.
The Wildcats’ second consecutive win, and fifth straight victory over Hartford at home, ups their record to 5-7, including 1-0 in America East play, while the Hawks fall to 5-10 overall and 1-1 in the conference. UNH, which beat Albany, 75-66, at home last season to open up league play, wins its conference opener in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.
Gibbs, UNH’s America East Player of the Game, added a season-high eight rebounds to go along with his point total that fell just one shy of tying his career high.
UNH had its largest lead of the game, a 38-25 advantage with 8:49 to go in the game, when Hartford ripped off a 13-2 run, highlighted by eight points from Jaret von Rosenberg, to cut the Wildcat lead to 40-38 with just under six minutes remaining.
The Wildcats maintained their composure, however and responded in a big way. Gibbs knocked down one of his five 3-pointers on the night and when Hartford’s America East Player of the Game, Michael Turner, answered with a 3 of his own, Gibbs came back with another trey to spark an 8-1 run that gave the ‘Cats a 51-43 lead with 1:45 on the clock. Four UNH free throws would offset Hartford’s layup and a pair of free throws to close out the game.
Center Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) hit the last two free throws to finish with four points. It was on the glass, however, where the sophomore was huge for the Wildcats, tearing down a career-high 17 rebounds, including 10 in the first half. DiLiegro, who tallied more offensive rebounds (8) than Hartford’s entire team (5), led the Wildcats to a 44-29 rebound advantage. The 17 boards are also a season-high in America East this season, beating out Stony Brook’s Tommy Brenton, who had 15 against Maryland Eastern Shore on Nov. 14. The rebound total is the most anyone in the conference has recorded since Vermont’s Marqus Blakely had 29 at UNC-Wilmington on Feb. 23, 2008, and most in a conference game since Blakely had 20 against Hartford on Feb. 20, 2008.
The Wildcats got off to a quick start against the Hawks as they opened up the game on a 12-4 run, with seven points from Gibbs, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key that capped the run at 14:50.
Despite the quick start by the Wildcats, the Hawks managed to find their offensive groove as a von Rosenberg layup sparked a 13-3 run that lasted 9:17. The run was capped off with a Genesis Maciel jumper that gave Hartford its first lead of the night as it pushed ahead, 17-15, at 5:45.
The Wildcats would not let the lead stand for long as on the ensuing possession a Gibbs 3-pointer from the left wing put UNH back out in front 18-17, and sparked an 8-2 run that would send the ‘Cats into the locker room with a 23-19 lead. Gibbs, who ended the game with 1,053 career points to move past Eric Montanari (1,038) into 18th place on UNH’s all-time scoring list, finished the half with 10 points. The Wildcats are now 3-0 on the year when leading at halftime.
New Hampshire carried over its momentum from the first half as it opened the second frame with an 8-0 run that was capped off with an Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) put-back off a miss to make the score 31-19 at 15:14. The two teams went back and forth until Hartford’s big run down the stretch.
Hartford did not record its first point of the second half until a Turner free throw at 13:42 and had its first bucket of the second half come on a von Rosenberg layup at 11:57. Going back into the first half, the Wildcats held the Hawks scoreless for 9:11, and without a field goal for 10:53.
Abreu tallied 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals, while sophomore forward Rony Tchatchoua (Douala, Cameroon) gave the Wildcats more good minutes with 11 points, six boards, two assists, a block and a steal.
Turner led Hartford with 16 points and seven rebounds, while von Rosenberg added 15 points and three assists.
The Wildcats continue conference play when they hit the road to take on Boston University on Sunday, Jan. 11 at 1 p.m. at Case Gymnasium.