BALTIMORE, Md. - Junior Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) scored 16 points and classmate Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) knocked down a runner with 0.7 seconds remaining as the University of New Hampshire men's basketball team knocked off Loyola University Maryland, 61-60, in an ESPN BracketBusters matchup on Saturday afternoon at Reitz Arena.
The Wildcats' win in their first ever BracketBusters game lifts them to 11-15 on the season, while the Greyhounds, who are now 2-3 in the event all-time, fall to 12-15. UNH wraps up its non-conference slate at 6-6, giving the program its best non-conference record since it went 7-3 during the 1994-95 season.
Abreu, UNH's America East Player of the Game for the sixth straight contest and ninth time in the last 12 games, finished with two assists, two rebounds and a steal and was 8-for-10 at the line. Abreu also extended his career-best double-digit scoring streak to 10 games and has scored 10-plus points in 13 of the last 14 tilts. Conley added 11 points, six rebounds and a steal, and was 9-for-10 at the stripe, making the game-winning basket his only of the game. Sophomore Brian Benson (Rochester, N.Y.) netted a career-best 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting, including 1 of 2 from behind the arc, and added three rebounds and a block in a career-high 30 minutes.
Jamal Barney led the Greyhounds with 16 points.
Trailing by five, 60-55, with 2:08 to play, the Wildcats started their comeback when sophomore Russell Graham (Norristown, Pa.) grabbed his own rebound off a missed 3-pointer and put it back to cut the deficit to three. After forcing a miss on the other end, the Wildcats made it 60-59 when Abreu was fouled and sank both at the line. The UNH defense again clamped down to force a turnover with 23 seconds left and take the ball back.
The Wildcats moved the ball around, but could not find an open shot as the Greyhounds stuck with the UNH shooters. With the clock running down, the ‘Cats looked for an open man and found Conley at the top of the paint where he let go of a runner off of one foot that found the bottom of the net with seven-tenths of a second left and gave his team a 61-60 lead.
Loyola (Md.) called a full timeout, followed by a full timeout by UNH before the Greyhounds ran their final play, throwing a three-quarters court inbound pass that was intercepted by Graham, who jumped up and grabbed the ball to seal the win. The Wildcats forced the Greyhounds to go 0-for-2 from the field with a turnover in the final 2:24.
Graham chipped in with five points, six rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes off the bench. Graham, who now has 102 assists on the year, is the first Wildcat to reach 100 helpers in a season since Colin Donahue handed out 135 during the 2000-01 season.
The Greyhounds began the game on a 9-1 run and still led by eight, 15-7, with 12:05 to go in the opening half when UNH went on a 14-2 run to take their first lead of the afternoon. Back-to-back three-point plays from junior Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) and Benson quickly sliced the deficit to two before a pair of free throws by Brian Rudolph made it 17-13 at 11:23.
Conley then got to the line, where he sank a pair, followed by three consecutive free throws, including a pair at 6:38, that gave the Wildcats the 18-17 lead. Benson capped the run with a 3 from the right wing that made it 21-17 with 5:36 left.
UNH still led by four a minute later when J'hared Hall knocked down a 3 to cut the lead to one, 23-22. Tony Lewis made 1 of 2 at the line to knot the game at 27 with 2:46 to play before a layup and a jumper by Benson opened the Wildcat lead back up to four at 31-27 with 33 seconds on the clock. Kelly Garrett closed the scoring by draining a 3-pointer with four seconds left that made it 31-30 at the half. The ‘Cats improved to 11-2 when tied or leading at the break.
Jawaan Wright opened the second half with a pair of free throws that gave Loyola a 32-31 lead just 46 seconds in. UNH would not lead again until Conley's basket with 0.7 left. The Greyhounds still led by one, 38-37, with 13:54 remaining when a 3-pointer by Brett Harvey and free throw by Rudolph opened their lead up to five. The two teams continued to go back and forth with the Loyola lead still standing at five with 2:08 on the clock when the Wildcats used their 6-0 run to win the game.
DiLiegro posted nine points as he was a perfect 4 of 4 from the field and 1 of 1 at the line. DiLiegro also added five boards to pull into an eighth-place tie with Pete Smilikis (603) on UNH's all-time rebounding list.
Freshman Chandler Rhoads (Berryville, Va.) chipped in with five points, three assists and two boards, while senior Radar Onguetou (Yaounde, Cameroon) pulled down seven rebounds and freshman Chris Matagrano (Sayreville, N.J.) recorded a career-high five boards.
UNH held a massive 43-26 edge on the glass, including 17-5 on the offensive end, which led to a 12-2 advantage in second-chance points. The Wildcats were outshot, 42.9 percent (18-42) to 33.3 percent (18-54), but outscored the Greyhounds 22-20 in the paint and held a 36-26 margin in bench scoring.
Abreu finished the day with 1,100 points and moved past former teammate Mike Christensen (1,087) for 18th on UNH's all-time scoring list. Erie Feragne (1,105) and Peter Laskaris (1,115) are next up on the list.
Rudolph, Wright and Harvey all added 10 points for the Greyhounds.
The Wildcats return to action Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. when they play host to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County at Lundholm Gymnasium. The ‘Cats then wrap up their regular season when they play host to Stony Brook University on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. on Senior Day. Alumni Eric Gilchrese and Tyrece Gibbs return to Lundholm following that game when their Manchester Millrats take on Keith Friel and the Rochester RazorSharks at 5 p.m.