By: Sam Donnelly, Staff Writer
The UNH men’s basketball team fell just short against Boston College, 58-50 in the Wildcats’ season opener. Freshman forward Tanner Leissner led the Wildcats with 17 points, wuth 15 coming in the second half. Sophomore guards Jaleen Smith chipped in with 14 points and four assists and Daniel Dion finished with eight points and six rebounds. Aaron Brown and Olivier Hanlan led the Eagles with 21 and 17 points, respectively. The Wildcats start the season 0-1, while the Eagles get their new head coach, Jim Christian, his first win as the head coach.
The Wildcats took an early 9-2 lead off a runner from sophomore guard Ronnel Jordan. The Eagles responded with a 26-9 run to close the half with a 28-18 lead.
“We are going to have be able to score around the basket,” UNH head coach Bill Herrion said. “You have to give BC credit, they were better defensively than we thought.”
The Eagles pushed their lead to 18 points midway through the second half when Aaron Brown converted an old-fashioned three-point play to push the score to 41-29. The Wildcats continued to fight, mostly on the back of Leissner and had a streak of 8 straight points.
“He’s a really good player,” Herrion said. “He’s a tough kid and has a high basketball IQ. He is a versatile player around the rim and stepping out on the perimeter.”
The Wildcats cut the lead to as little as six off a Smith layup, but ultimately it was to little, too late as Brown sunk two free throws for the Eagles to put the game out of reach. The final buzzer sounded and the score stood at 58-50.
Despite the loss, Herrion believes there were plenty of positives after the Boston College game, especially with regards to interior defense.
“Our team defense was good,” Herrion said. “The big question was our physicality in the paint and our ability to rebound the basketball. We played hard and did those things pretty well.”
The Wildcats outrebounded to Eagles 39-35, despite BC starting two big men over 6 feet 10 inches. UNH held BC 7-footer Dennis Clifford to six points and four rebounds, both lows for Clifford. The Wildcats also held the Eagles to just 35 percent shooting, including a 1-for-19 performance from beyond the arc. All of this was done without transfer Joe Bramanti, who Herrion believes is their best perimeter defender.
The issues for the Wildcats came on the offensive end of the floor. UNH shot just 30 percent and missed seven free throws, including a few pivotal ones down the stretch. The Wildcats also turned the ball over 19 times; something Herrion says needs to be cleaned up.
“We had a couple long scoring droughts,” Herrion said. “We also turned the ball over too much, and that was the biggest problem for us.”
The Wildcats will now move forward to their home opener against Thomas College on Tuesday. Herrion’s message to the team is simple.
“Win,” Herrion said. “We haven’t won a game yet; we have to get our first win.”
UNH will take the court Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium against Thomas College. For now, Herrion is using an age-old adage to keep the Wildcats focused.
“One game at a time,” Herrion said. “We played well in the BC game, but that’s over. We need a win.”