September 1, 2011

Coach Herrion Recaps Four-Game Roadtrip to Canada

The University of New Hampshire men's basketball program wrapped up its five-day trip in Canada with a 3-1 record, capping it off with an 80-66 victory over Bishop's University Saturday, Aug. 27. For a full summary of the trip, read head coach Bill Herrion's blog entries with analysis of each contest on the four-game roadtrip. 


(Photos) 

2011-12 UNH Men's Basketball Team


Coach Herrion's blog entry...


"Well, it's Thursday, the guys just started classes on Monday and we've had a few days to unwind from the trip to Canada, so I thought I'd collect some thoughts and recap the five-day trip. I can honestly say that it was better than I expected and there's no question it was the right time to take this trip. Getting your team together in August for practice and games gives you a great evaluation tool for the coming season. You find out a lot of answers to questions earlier rather than waiting to find out in November. I'm not going to lie, I wish the NCAA would let you make this trip every two or three years instead of once very four years. I'm sure if they did, it would give the big time programs a great advantage. When we first thought of making the trip there were a few reasons behind it. First, it obviously gives you a chance to evaluate your team early, second, we wanted to see where some guys were at with their progression in their careers, especially some guys who have not played many minutes in the past, but we need to rely on this season and beyond, and third, a chance to get the injured players and our one transfer who sat out last year a chance to get their feet wet and not wait until October or November to find that out. As important, it gives your team a chance to bond and spend quality time with each other and help build team chemistry. I don't know if that's a real issue with our team, we have real good kids in the program who I think get along real well. The only negative part of the trip was we probably didn't get a chance to do as much sightseeing as we would have liked. The three days in Montreal was great, getting to Old Town Montreal, visiting the Cathedral, and going to Six Flags, the guys had a great time. We only spent one day in Quebec and we were on the outskirts at Laval and didn't get a chance to get downtown to Quebec City, which they say is a great place to visit. But, all in all, the trip was way more positive than I expected it to be. From a team standpoint, a few things emerged right out of the gates that we are going to have to really pay attention to as we move forward with our fall workouts and as we get into practice in October. The real positive with the negatives or weaknesses is they are fixable and we have time to fix it. Our rebounding was an issue in the first game against McGill, as we got outrebounded by about 15 by a really physical, aggressive team. A couple of reasons, with only eight days of practice we didn't really hammer box out drills the way we normally do, we are a little undersized as far as height, and losing Brian Benson was a factor after the first game. The rebounding got better as the trip went on, but it's definitely an area we have to really pay attention to when we get going. Jeron Trotman can go get the ball as he had back-to-back double figure rebounding games on the trip. We're definitely going to have to team rebound this year. Our post defense was an issue as well early. With the wider lane in FIBA basketball, it's more one-on-one face up than the power game we are used to here in the states. We didn't spend a lot of time in practice breaking down our post defense, we did not double the post or play any zone to protect the inside guys which we will do during the year. Our turnovers were an issue in the first two games as well. We had 22 and 24 turnovers the first two nights, but I think it was attributed to a couple of things. Number one, we wanted our guys to play faster and more aggressive on offense, and secondly, the 24-second shot clock really comes into play and makes you play faster. We did a much better job taking care of the ball in the Laval and Bishop's game, so that was a positive as the trip went on. But, what I really like with this team is that we have a lot of guys that can handle the ball. This could be our best ball handling team that we've had here. On a positive note, our perimeter defense was outstanding. Jordon Bronner is a year older and stronger and can really play the ball. So I think we're going to be able to pressure the ball more. That leads to the million-dollar question we ask ourselves every year as a staff at the beginning of the year, I think we do need to press more. I think at the college level, pressing defenses are good early in the year, you can catch teams off guard, but it's hard to maintain throughout the year because of fatigue, wear and tear, and there's so much video now, there's no surprise. Anyway, when you see teams that win championships in March, it's usually the best man-to-man defensive teams, not the pressing ones. But I think we have to add it in. On a positive note, offensively I really like the versatility that we have on this team. I think we have a lot of guys that can play a number of different positions. We had to play small a lot in Canada, so it was good to experiment with different lineups, but I really like our ability to handle the ball at a lot of different positions. As I said earlier, the trip was really good for Alvin Abreu to kind of break the ice mentally coming off his injury and know that his knee is fine and is ready to play. Better to find that out now than in October or November. Patrick Konan had a chance to get the rust off after sitting out a year and get some games under his belt. Jeron Trotman, even though he's eligible, is new to the system. We definitely have to score more in transition and be committed to the running game, but it really has to come off of our defense. Chandler Rhoads really emerged offensively and we're hoping he carries that into the season. He's a strong, physical kid that really competes and we can play him at a lot of different positions. Chris Matagrano's confidence was the highest it's been since he's been here at UNH. He's very skilled on the offensive end of the floor, but now has to be a factor on the glass. Ryan Herrion, who we put on scholarship a few weeks ago, did a very solid job at the backup point guard position. He's a senior now and with Alvin and Brian, it's their last go around to try and win a championship. Scott Morris is healthy from his shoulder surgery and is in much better shape and condition than a year ago. He can really shoot the ball and we need him to make threes. We have to find a spot for Garrett Jones, whether he's a one or a two. He's got a chance to be a really good player, but like any freshman, it's all about patience. Tommy McDonnell did a real nice job off the bench for us defensively. Brian Benson is fine from the concussion and will be ready to go in workouts when we start back up after Labor Day and Ferg Myrick is still rehabbing his knee and is on schedule to begin practice on Oct. 14. Well, I know this has been a really long blog, but I wanted to give our fans an insight into the trip. Like I said, it was better than I expected and I really feel we got a lot out of the trip. Now we have to carry it over into the season. Thanks to everyone who helped us financially, we couldn't have done it without you. I'm going to keep trying to continue this blog as the season goes on. Thanks again and I look forward to seeing all of you at the Gerry Friel Golf Tournament on Friday Sept. 16. My fingers are tired, I've never typed this much in my life. And for all of you who thought I just dictated everything to Anthony DeAngelis, our SID, you're wrong. I did all the typing myself. So that typing class I took when I was a sophomore at Oxford High School finally paid off!  Go Cats!"


Game 4:

New Hampshire - 80
Bishop's University - 66
(Final) Boxscore
(Saturday, Aug. 27)

Coach Herrion's blog entry...

"Well, we're on the bus and finally heading home back to Durham after five great days in Canada. Even now, I'm convinced more than ever that this was the right thing to do with this team and we got so much out of it. I hope that will carry us into the 2011-12 season, but more on that later. We just crossed the border and got back into the U.S. Feels good to be heading home. We just stopped in Derby Line, Vermont to get some food for the guys. One of my good friends and former assistant coach at East Carolina, Steve Clifford, is from Derby Line. Steve is now an assistant with Stan Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic. We just finished the trip with a real solid 80-66 win over Bishop's University to finish the trip with a 3-1 record. The real positive with the trip is that we got better and played better every night we stepped on the floor. Four games in four days is not easy, but these guys really hung in there and competed really hard. I'll talk a little bit about the Bishop's game and then give an overview of the four games and where we stand coming home. We started every player at least one game on the trip and today we started Ryan Herrion, Alvin Abreu, Tommy McDonnell, Patrick Konan and Jeron Trotman. That group got us off to a great start and really established the game defensively. We got into early foul trouble with Patrick and Jeron, so we had to go to the bench and play small. We put Chandler Rhodes at the four and played four perimeter players with Chris Matagrano the whole first half. One of the real positives of the trip was we were forced to move people around and play a lot of different combinations. As I said yesterday, Chandler's becoming a real multi-purpose guy for us. On the trip he played the one, two, three and four. And what really came out of the last four games is his toughness. He really competes and is playing like an older veteran player. The small lineup was really good in the second quarter, as we really spread the floor and we were very aggressive in transition. The 24-second clock really makes you play quicker and the guys have to make plays. We had a 40-29 lead at the half and we talked about controlling the second half and finishing the trip the right way. We were sluggish offensively to start the third quarter and Bishop's did a nice job of playing hard and not going away. We hung on in the fourth quarter; made some free throws and won the game 80-66. Chandler had another big offensive game with 30 points. He went back-to-back games with 30 points. Jordon Bronner finished with 15 points and had a great trip. He's definitely a year older and stronger, much more aggressive offensively and can really guard the ball. Patrick Konan had another good game with 10 points and nine rebounds. We finished the trip 3-1 and some positives were we scored points, 79 per game and we got to the free throw line. I think the loss the first night to McGill gave us a real quick wakeup call and we got much tougher and much better defensively as the trip went on. I'm going to end here and in the beginning of my next blog I will recap the whole trip and talk about where this team is at the start of the school year. All I can say is the experience of having your team together this early and getting a chance to evaluate, you cannot put a price tag on that. Alvin got his legs and confidence under him, Brian Benson will be ready for workouts when we start up again, and we have to get Ferg Myrick back on the court. Well, we're on 93 trying to beat the storm home. I hope everybody stays safe the next few days with the hurricane, and we'll recap the entire trip next week when we have a chance to sit back and evaluate everything. The guys are tired, they played really hard the whole trip, we've been at this for 13 days, so they're going to be off all next week, get some rest, get to their classes and we'll get back at it after Labor Day and then the real journey begins. Just want to give a quick shout out to Robin Balducci and her field hockey team on a great win over No. 6 Ohio St. Congrats! Have a safe weekend and we'll be back next week. Go Cats!"


Game 3:

New Hampshire - 87
LaVal University - 65
(Final) Boxscore
(Friday, Aug. 26)

Chandler Rhoads (Game-high 30 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists)




Coach Herrion's blog entry...

"It's really late, the game didn't start until 8 p.m. tonight. Great win for us considering we were really short-handed. Brian Benson is still out with the concussion and we sat Alvin Abreu to rest his knee. So, all in all it was a great team effort. The real positive about the trip is every night we got better as a team. Final score against Laval was 87-65. One good thing on the trip is we're scoring points: 74, 77, and 87 tonight, so that's a good sign. If you've never been up to Laval University, what a beautiful school. The enrollment is 50,000 students with really impressive facilities. I spoke to their Athletic Director before the game and he said they have a great football program and draw about 15,000 fans for their home games. They are moving into a brand new 3,500 capacity basketball facility next season. So, all in all a really impressive school. They really promoted tonight's game and it felt like a true road game for us with a good crowd, so it was good to win a "true" road game. We started Jordon Bronner, Garrett Jones, Patrick Konan, Jeron Trotman, and Chris Matagrano. We got off to a great start offensively and put 28 points on the board in the first quarter. Konan finally broke out and played terrific with 20 points and seven rebounds. We played all nine players that dressed and the bench gave us another great lift. Chandler Rhodes, Ryan Herrion, Scott Morris, and Tommy McDonnell came in early and did a great job of continuing the way we were playing. Rhodes had his best game in a UNH uniform tonight with 30 points (8-14 from the floor, 5-5 from three, and 9-10 from the free throw line). He's really becoming a multi-purpose guy for us because he can play four positions and he really competes. Our team defense has really improved each night on the trip and we held Laval to 36.8 percent shooting from the floor for the game. Trotman had another double-figure rebounding game with 12. He really goes after the ball hard on the glass. We talked about taking better care of the ball before the game and we did, with only 12 turnovers. So, all in all it was a real good night for us and the kids did a great job competing. It's really late and it was a long day so time to wrap up. We've got breakfast at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning and then a two and a half hour bus ride over to Bishop's for a 4 p.m. game. Hopefully we can finish the trip on a positive note and I think the guys are ready to get home. Oh yeah, they start class on Monday! I guess it's that time of the year. I'm not going to lie, the summer flew by. We'll get back with you after the game tomorrow. Go Cats!"


Coach Herrion's blog entry...

"Just killing some time on the two and a half hour bus ride over to Quebec City. I've never been able to sleep on bus rides, so I thought I'd give you some tidbits from the first two games...

  • We were much better as a team last night against Quebec than the first night against McGill. McGill ran some really good offense, similar to Princeton, which is hard to guard in season, let alone in August.
  • Turnovers have been a problem the first two games, but I think it's due to a number of things: 1) it's August and we're experimenting with a lot of different combinations, 2) we're forcing our guys to play faster in transition, and 3) we're playing by FIBA rules and the 24-second shot clock makes a big difference. The game is faster with so many more possessions. I really like it for two reasons: 1) it takes some of the coaching out of the game (as UNH fans, you probably like that!) and 2) it forces the players to make plays. Now you can see why the NBA is a player's league. I'd like to see men's college basketball go to a 30-second shot clock like women's college basketball does.
  • Some different rules up here compared to our game: 1) 24-second shot clock, 2) eight seconds to get the ball over half court instead of 10, 3) side out of bounds in the frontcourt you cannot throw the ball into the backcourt, 4) they play four 10 minute quarters, 5) double bonus on the fifth team foul of each quarter, 6) only the coach can call a timeout, 7) if you call a timeout in the last two minutes of a game you get the ball at half court, so there's different strategy involved playing by the FIBA rules.
  • Injury report: Brian Benson sustained a concussion in the McGill game and will be re-evaluated when we get to Quebec City, but possibly out for the rest of the trip. Alvin Abreu looks great coming off the ACL surgery, especially getting past the psychological part, but needs a little rest. Probably played him too many minutes the first two games. Scott Morris caught an elbow above the eye in last night's game and athletic trainer Cindy Michaud took him to the emergency room at a local hospital to get stitches. They got to the hospital at about 10:30 p.m. last night and I told them to text me when they were leaving to find out how many stitches he got. Well, Scott texted me at 6:49 a.m. this morning to tell me they were leaving the hospital and they only glued it! Wow! Where are the team doctors when you need them? Ferg Myrick is on the trip and continues to rehab his knee. He's not quite ready yet, but he's getting close and is on schedule to be ready for the start of practice in October.
  • Tonight's starting lineup against LaValle: Jordon Bronner, Garrett Jones, Patrick Konan, Jeron Trotman, and Chris Matagrano.
  • Like I said, after the first two games, I'm really happy we made this trip. We're finding an awful lot out about this team early. We'll talk more after the game tonight.  Go Cats!"


Game 2:

New Hampshire - 75
University of Quebec - 65
(Final/OT) Boxscore
(Thursday, Aug. 25)

Chris Matagrano (19 pts, 9 rbs, 2 steals)


Coach Herrion's blog entry...

"Well, we just got done eating dinner at the hotel and I'll be honest, the food tastes much better after a win. I didn't expect to be in two barn burners in August, but the two games against McGill and the University of Quebec have been really hard fought battles that will pay dividends during the season. These two games from a coaching and teaching standpoint have been exactly what the doctor ordered. As much as we want to compete and win games, we're also trying to mix in some fun on the trip. When we left the hotel this morning at 11:45 a.m. it was pouring rain, but we still headed over to the Montreal version of Six Flags. When we got to the park the sun came out, the park was empty and the kids had the run of the mill with the rides. These guys as a team went on every ride, which probably explains the 34.7 percent shooting from the floor tonight. I think they were still dizzy. I think this will be a great bonding experience for us heading into the season. As I've said many times before, we have a great group of kids on this team that I think really like each other. Every ride they went on they were chanting "UNH, UNH" before the rides took off. It was pretty cool. Now to the game, we had a great 75-65 overtime win against the University of Quebec. Our toughness, character, and resiliency has really been challenged in the first two games, and the kids have really answered the bell in a very positive way. Last night against McGill we could have folded a few times, but didn't and had a three to tie at the buzzer, and tonight we had leads during the game but couldn't put them away in regulation. We were down 61-55 with a minute to play in regulation and found a way to get the game into overtime and win. In the last minute Chandler Rhoads got fouled on a three, and made two free throws to cut it to four. We got a defensive stop and Jordon Bronner hit a huge three to cut the lead to one. We were forced to foul and Quebec missed both free throws and in a scramble rebound situation, Chris Matatgrano got fouled with three seconds left. He made the first and missed the second of a pair of free throws to send the game into overtime, where we really controlled the five minute session and won 75-65. We played tonight without Brian Benson, who sustained a concussion last night taking a charge against McGill. Not sure we'll have him for the last two games. This gave Matatgrano a chance to get more minutes and he really took advantage of the opportunity. By far his best game since he's had a UNH uniform on, not just because of his stat line (19 pts, 9 rbs, 6-9 from the floor, 3-3 from three in 41 mins.), but more because of how he competed and was a physical presence in the paint. It was great to see. Jeron Trotman was really good with 11 points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes, and some huge traffic rebounds down the stretch. We were in major foul trouble all game and played a lot of small lineups. Rhodes is becoming a jack-of-all-trades, because of his toughness playing the one, two, three and four. We started Ryan Herrion at the point and he was very solid with his floor play. Scott Morris started at the two and he's much better this year at both ends of the floor because of his conditioning. He's in much better shape than a year ago. Chandler started at the three and he finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Jeron started at the four and Chris at the five. We got a great lift off the bench tonight fromGarrett Jones and Tommy McDonnell. They gave us great minutes in the first half. Patrick Konanfinished with seven points and nine rebounds, but is really trying to find his way offensively right now. The three areas we really addressed before the game were: 1) our collective toughness as a group 2) the back board. We got pounded the night before against McGill, but outrebounded Quebec (55-50) and that was really positive, and 3) our team defense, which we have tried to build this program on. We held Quebec to 29.2 percent shooting from the floor and in the second quarter held them to one field goal. Alvin Abreu's knee is holding up real well, a little tired right now, but still a warrior. Unfortunately, Morris caught an elbow above the eye and is at a local hospital getting stitches as we speak. So, our athletic trainer Cindy Michaud thought she was going to have a nice quiet, easy trip to Montreal and get away from football, but a concussion and stitches in two nights. Hopefully we're done with the injuries for a while. Well, I know this has been long, it's almost midnight, so I'll end it here and go watch the tape. Breakfast is at 10 a.m. tomorrow and the bus ride to Quebec City is two and a half hours, so we will look and try to get a win tomorrow night against LaValle University. Very proud of the fight in these guys tonight. Go Cats!"


Game 1:

Chandler Rhoads (Team-high 15 points)


McGill University - 77
New Hampshire - 74
(Final) Boxscore
(Wednesday, Aug. 24)

Coach Herrion's blog entry...

"Well, we are here in Montreal and just got done our first game and eating a meal back at the hotel. We had a long day, not only with the game against McGill, but some sight-seeing in beautiful Montreal. Old Town Montreal is great and we went into the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is an awesome sight. I'll be as honest and upfront as I can be breaking down each game. I will start with this, after the loss to McGill, I'm more convinced than ever that we needed to make this trip. Some things have already popped up that I'm glad we saw on Aug. 24 and not on Oct. 24. We started Jordon Bronner, Alvin Abreu, Chandler Rhoads, Patrick Konan and Brian Benson. We got off to a slow start against a very well coached basketball team in McGill. Early turnovers and lack of defensive rebounding really hurt us, as we dug a 19-9 hole in the first quarter. We settled down pretty well in the second quarter and made a real nice run late in the half to cut the lead to 34-31. Two areas really were obvious from a weakness standpoint in the first half, the turnovers (14 in first half) and the glass (24-18). We dug two holes in the second half, down 13 with 2:07 left in the third quarter and down 10 in the fourth quarter, but the real positive with this basketball team is they never quit and kept playing. Alvin had a three at the buzzer to tie the score, but came up short and we lost our first game of the trip 77-74. 77 points is way too many for us to give up in a game, and two areas will get you beat every night if you're not solid, turnovers (22 for the game) and rebounding (45-30 and beat 17-9 on the offensive glass). The positive is we shot 53 percent from the floor in the second half and went to the line 24 times.  Disappointing was our post defense. We played all man-to-man defense, no zone and with the lack of practice, we had no traps or double teams in the low post and we got exposed in that area. Our perimeter defense was outstanding. So, safe to say two early areas of weakness after game one was the glass and our post defense, but like I said, better now than November or December. Bronner played a great floor game and is much improved and more confident than a year ago. Alvin, considering coming off an ACL surgery and missing 29 games last year is further along than I thought he would be. I think coming off that kind of injury, the confidence is a major factor and he has that. That's a real good sign. Rhodes was solid. A few too many turnovers, but we ask him to do a lot of things and he's tough as nails. Konan really struggled in the first half, but was much better in the second. I think that's expected after sitting out a year. Benson played really well at the end of the first half into the third quarter, ending with 12 points and four rebounds, but unfortunately took a charge in the third and went out with a possible concussion. He will be re-evaluated in the morning. The bench gave us good minutes, but we got caught in a tough down to the wire game and probably played the starters a little too much. We will start a different lineup tomorrow night against the University of Quebec and will use the bench more. So, after one game, some good and bad, but that's exactly why we're on this trip. What definitely came out of day one is we have a lot of work to do as a team. Former UNH football standout Ricky Santos came to the game and sat behind the bench. He's up here in Montreal playing in the Canadian Football League for the Alouettes. Well, it's almost midnight, need to watch the tape from tonight's game, get some rest and get back at it tomorrow night against Quebec. Also, Kazadi Nyanguila met us when we pulled into the hotel last night and the players went nuts when they saw him. He's been home here in Montreal all summer and looks really good. Time to get some rest and get ready to win a game tomorrow night. Go Cats!"

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