ALBANY, N.Y. – Senior guard Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass.) and sophomore guard Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) scored 18 and 16 points, respectively, to lead the fourth-seeded University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team to a 76-73 win against No. 5 Stony Brook University in the quarterfinal round of the America East Championship on Saturday night at SEFCU Arena.
The Wildcats, who have won five of their last six games, improve to 14-15 on the season and advance to just their sixth semifinal in school history Sunday evening versus No. 1 Binghamton University. UNH improves to 13-5 all-time against Stony Brook after beating the Seawolves for the third time this season and second time in six days. The Wildcats, who were 58-57 victors in overtime March 1 at Lundholm Gymnasium, defeat SBU for the fifth straight game and ninth time in the last 10 contests. The ‘Cats beat their first-round opponent after sweeping them in the regular season for the first time since the 1984-85 season when they defeated Colgate University three times, including the NAC first-round game. Stony Brook falls to 16-14 overall.
Head coach Bill Herrion, who owns the most America East Championship victories ever, improves to 20-8 (.714) all-time in the tournament and advances to his second semifinal while at the helm for UNH. Herrion also moves to 8-1 (.889) all-time against Stony Brook, whom the Wildcats had previously never faced in the tournament.
Gibbs added eight rebounds - including the 500th of his career - and three assists in the game, while Conley pulled down five rebounds and matched a career high with six assists. Gibbs extended his double-digit scoring streak to a career-best eight games, during which he is averaging 17.8 points per game. Gibbs, whose previous seven-game streak lasted from Feb. 20, 2008-Nov. 29, 2008, has not been held under 10 points since Feb. 4 against Hartford.
Leading by four with 33 seconds left, the Wildcats received a huge lift from Gibbs. The captain tried to drive to the basket from the top of the key, but was fouled on his way there. Gibbs, upon hearing the whistle, hung in the air and threw up a circus shot that banked off the window and went in. Gibbs converted the three-point play at the line to give UNH a 75-68 lead.
Just like the previous two meetings this year, however, Stony Brook did not go away as it received a 3-pointer from Muhammad El-Amin to cut the deficit to four with 20 seconds left. Tommy Brenton then added a basket to cut UNH’s lead to 75-73 with seven seconds on the clock. The Seawolves sent senior guard Eric Gilchrese (Springfield, Ill.) to the line, where he would hit one of two to put the Wildcats up three with six seconds remaining. El-Amin gave Stony Brook one last shot, but his 3 missed the mark and was fittingly corralled by Gibbs as time expired. Gilchrese also scored in double digits for UNH with 12 points to go along with two rebounds and two assists.
With the Wildcats leading 42-38 at the break, Gibbs, who scored just three points in the first half, came out of the locker room on fire. Gibbs opened with a jumper from the foul line, and after a three-point play by Brian Dougher, drained back-to-back 3-pointers to give his team a 50-41 advantage at 18:24.
After Stony Brook had cut it to five, the Wildcats scored eight straight – capped by consecutive treys from Conley – to take their largest lead of the game at 60-47 with 12:18 remaining. Sparked by an El-Amin 3, however, Stony Brook responded with a 7-0 run of its own to slice the deficit to six at 9:23.
Gibbs, who netted 15 in the second half, stepped up again, sinking one of his four 3-pointers on the night and adding a free throw to end the run and give UNH a 64-54 lead at 6:37. After a Dougher layup cut it to single digits, Gilchrese knocked down a triple to bump the lead back to 11.
Stony Brook bounced back again, however, scoring five straight to make it 67-61 at 3:26. Down seven a minute and a half later, the Seawolves received a big 3 from Demetrius Young, who only scored those three points the entire game, to chip UNH’s lead down to 70-66. The teams, which nearly played into the following morning, then traded points on consecutive possessions to set up Gibbs’ miracle shot that helped the Wildcats seal the win. UNH improved to 9-1 when leading at halftime.
After Stony Brook had jumped out to a 6-0 lead two minutes into the game, Gilchrese sparked an 11-2 run with a 3-pointer that got UNH on the board. Conley then followed with his first of four treys that tied the game before junior forward Radar Onguetou (Yaounde, Cameroon) converted an old fashioned three-point play to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game. The teams then traded a pair at the line to close the run with UNH up 11-8 at 16:05.
The squads continued to go back and forth, with baskets from sophomore center James Valladares (Kaufman, Texas) and sophomore forward Rony Tchatchoua (Douala, Cameroon) giving UNH an 18-14 lead at 12:43. Brenton cut the lead in half with a layup before Dougher drilled a 3 to give Stony Brook a 19-18 edge at 10:27. Valladares came right back and gave UNH the lead for good with a jumper midway through the opening frame that sparked an 8-2 run. Conley and freshman guard Russell Graham (Norristown, Pa.) each scored three points to fill out the rest of the run that ended with the Wildcats on top 28-21 with 8:08 to play.
El-Amin cut the deficit to four with an old fashioned three-point play, before Valladares sank a baseline jumper. El-Amin then picked up another basket, but Gibbs scored his only points of the half when he knocked down a 3-pointer that put his team up 33-26 at 6:16.
After a Tchatchoua layup pushed the lead to nine at 3:02, Stony Brook scored seven straight to get within 39-37 with 1:17 to go in the half. Graham buried a huge 3 from the left wing to give UNH some breathing room before a Seawolve free throw with 18 seconds left capped the scoring and sent the teams to the half with the Wildcats up 42-38.
Onguetou chipped in with seven points and six rebounds, while Valladares matched a career high with a season-best six points. Tchatchoua posted six points and four boards and Graham tallied six points, two rebounds and two assists. Sophomore center Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) added five points and four rebounds despite being in foul trouble for most of the game.
Gibbs scored his 1,300th point in the contest, finishing the night with 1,311 career points, which leaves him 29 shy of tying former teammate Blagoj Janev for fourth place on UNH’s all-time scoring list. Gibbs also upped his conference-leading 3-point field goals made total to 85 for the season, which is second all-time in a single campaign at UNH and just two shy of Matt Alosa’s record 87 treys during the 1994-95 season.
The Wildcats, who posted season highs against Division I opponents in points (78), field goal percentage (.568) and 3-point field goal percentage (.600) in their earlier trip to SEFCU this season when they faced Albany on Feb. 15, evidently feel very comfortable in the building as they outshot Stony Brook, 45 percent (24-53) to 43 percent (26-61), including 37 percent (11-30) to 29 percent (6-21) from deep. The rebounding battle was even at 37 apiece, while the Seawolves turned the ball over three fewer times (5) than UNH (8).
El-Amin led Stony Brook with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Dougher added 17.
The ‘Cats return to action Sunday, March 8 at 5 p.m. when they take on Binghamton for the right to host their first ever America East title game. The contest can be seen live on Comcast SportsNet New England.