DURHAM, N.H. – Senior Day and senior guard Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass.) played like the senior captain he is. Gibbs scored a game-high 21 points and knocked down the game winning 3-pointer from the top of the key with just 34 seconds left in overtime to lift the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team to a 58-57 win against Stony Brook University on Sunday afternoon in front of 1,172 fans at Lundholm Gymnasium.
The Wildcats, who have swept the season series from Stony Brook after a 71-60 road win Jan. 28, wrap up their best regular season in 14 years as they finish with a 13-15 record, including 8-8 in America East play. The 13 wins are the most since UNH recorded 19 during the 1994-95 season, while the 8-8 conference record marks just the second .500 conference campaign in seven years and the first since the 2005-06 season when head coach Bill Herrion guided his squad to a 12-17 overall record and an 8-8 mark in the conference. The loss drops Stony Brook to 16-13 overall and 8-8 in the conference.
The win also gives the ‘Cats the No. 4 seed – their highest seed since they garnered the fourth seed in 2001-02 – for next weekend’s America East tournament. UNH will take on these same Seawolves, who are seeded fifth – their highest seed ever.
Gibbs, UNH’s America East Player of the Game, notched his second double-double of the season and the third of his career as he added a career-high 11 rebounds to go along with two assists, a block and three steals in 44 minutes. Gibbs is now averaging 17.7 points per game over the span of his seven-game double-digit scoring streak, which is tied for the longest of his career.
Trailing by three points on their final possession of the second half, the Wildcats turned to Gibbs, who got free off a screen and buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 52 with just four seconds on the clock. Stony Brook tried to push the ball up for one last shot, but another senior guard, Eric Gilchrese (Springfield, Ill.), intercepted the pass and sent the game to overtime.
Stony Brook opened the extra session with a free throw one minute in before sophomore guard Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) sank a 3-pointer from the wing that gave the Wildcats a 55-53 lead with 3:33 left. Tommy Brenton hit a pair from the line to give the Seawolves a 57-55 lead with 44 seconds remaining following a Demetrius Young layup that knotted the game at 55 with 2:23 to go.
The Wildcats once again jumped on the back of Gibbs, who tied a career best by knocking down his sixth and final 3 to give UNH a 58-57 lead with 34 seconds on the clock. Gibbs then ripped down his 11th board after Muhammad El-Amin missed a chance to give his team the lead with 13 seconds to play. Stony Brook had one last chance to win it, but could not hold on to the ball and junior guard Colbey Santos (Onset, Mass.) dove on it to seal the dramatic win. Gilchrese finished with nine points and a season- high six assists, while Conley tallied 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The first half showcased the two best defensive teams in the conference as it was a back-and-forth defensive battle, with neither team able to get into an offensive rhythm early. UNH drew first blood in the contest as sophomore center Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) evaded the defensive pressure and showed his soft touch around the basket to lay in the first bucket of the game at 18:18. From there, both teams spent much of the half returning the other’s best shot.
Stony Brook held their largest lead of the game when consecutive 3-pointers by El-Amin and Brenton ended a 14-all tie and gave the Seawolves a six-point advantage with 5:01 left. The Wildcats would bounce back in the remaining minutes of play, however, cutting their deficit down to just one point as Conley netted a jumper at 2:03 to bring UNH to within 22-21. Young added to the Stony Brook lead, however, using a jumper with just 41 seconds left to give his team a 24-21 advantage as they headed into the locker room. DiLiegro finished just shy of a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds to go along with two steals in a career-high 40 minutes.
The Seawolves opened the second frame with a jumper from El-Amin just 18 seconds in that widened their lead to five. After sophomore forward Rony Tchatchoua (Douala, Cameroon) cut into the Stony Brook lead with a 3-pointer, the teams traded baskets to bring the score to 28-26 in favor of the Seawolves at 16:37. SBU then scored four straight to push its lead back to six just under a minute later.
Trailing by five later in the half, Gibbs converted an old fashioned three-point play to get UNH back within two (33-31) with 12:13 remaining. After an El-Amin jumper opened Stony Brook’s lead up to four, Gibbs responded with another trey midway through the half that sparked an 8-0 Wildcat run and sliced his squad’s deficit to just one. Gilchrese followed with 3-pointer of his own that gave UNH its first lead since 7:43 of the first half at 39-37 with 9:18 left. Tchatchoua polished off the run with a pair of free throws that put the Wildcats up four at 8:48.
Stony Brook came right back with a 6-0 run of their own, receiving consecutive baskets from Young to tie the game at 41 with 7:32 left, and another from El-Amin that put the Seawolves up two at 6:44. Junior forward Radar Onguetou (Yaounde, Cameroon) tied the game again with a jumper before SBU scored four straight to take a 47-43 lead at 5:32.
Gibbs responded once again with a 3-pointer that brought the Wildcats within one with just under five minutes to go. A jumper by Young and a free throw by Dougher, however, pushed the Stony Brook lead back to four at 50-46 with 4:02 left. Another trey by who else, Gibbs, again sliced the UNH deficit to one at 1:26. Dougher drained a pair of free throws to give Stony Brook the 52-49 lead with 35 seconds left and set the stage for Gibbs’ heroics. Onguetou added five points and five boards, while Tchatchoua chipped in with five points.
Gibbs finished the game with 1,293 career points and moved past Scott Drapeau (1,290) for fifth place on UNH’s all-time scoring list. Gibbs’ six trifectas give him 81 for the year, which is good for third most in single season at UNH – two behind his own performance from a year ago and six behind the leader Matt Alosa.
The Wildcats were outshot 43 percent (21-49) to 34 percent (20-59), but outrebounded the Seawolves, 37-36, and also turned the ball over fewer times (18) than Stony Brook (21).
El-Amin, Stony Brook’s America East Player of the Game, led the Seawolves with 18 points, six rebounds and two assists. Young notched 15 points, five boards and three steals. Brenton came up just short of a double-double as he tallied eight points and pulled in eight rebounds.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats return to action Saturday, March 7 at 8:30 p.m. as they meet No. 5 Stony Brook for the second time in six days in the quarterfinal round of the America East tournament at Albany’s SEFCU Arena.