By Sam Donnelly, Staff Writer
After a 1-2 start to the season, the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team has rattled off three-straight wins, two of which have come on the road.
The Wildcats began that streak last Tuesday after beating Boston University 75-68. After Thanksgiving, the Wildcats traveled to Dartmouth where they clawed their way to a 65-63 win. Finally, UNH went to LIU Brooklyn on Wednesday and grabbed another win, this time 72-56.
The Wildcats, who only averaged 57.8 points per game last season, are scoring at a higher rate, averaging 68.2 points per game. The team is also shooting 41.6 percent as a team, including 35.1 percent from beyond the arc. That is nearly 10 percent better than last season. The Wildcats’ offensive success is not something head coach Bill Herrion will truly take credit for.
“We haven’t done anything new as coaches,” Herrion said. “We are running the same stuff we usually do. We have a lot more guys that can handle the ball and make plays. We are emphasizing pushing the ball, and we are scoring well in transition.”
The catalyst behind the Wildcats’ offensive outburst is sophomore Daniel Dion. Dion has scored 55 points in three games, including two 23-point efforts against Boston College and Dartmouth.
“We have always known since he has been here that he is a talented offensive player,” Herrion said. “He is good with the ball, he has unlimited three point range and his biggest stride since last year is how hard he is playing every game.”
The Wildcats have always been a defensive-minded team under Herrion, and that has not changed despite the offensive success. The Wildcats only turned the ball over 23 times through three games, while forcing their opponents to commit 41. The Wildcats turned those 41 turnovers into 39 points, most of which coming in transition.
“At any level, there is a correlation between low turnovers, high shooting percentage and points scored,” Herrion said. “Turnovers are the biggest key. We are getting stops defensively and not giving the ball away on offense.”
UNH has started 4-2 without their starting junior point guard Joe Bramanti. Bramanti has not seen any time on the court this season after he suffered a strained oblique in one of the Wildcats’ last practices before their season opener. A strained oblique is more prevalent in the sport of baseball and is capable of keeping an athlete on the sideline for up to six weeks.
“We think he is making pretty good progress,” Herrion said. “He’s been doing some light shooting and will try to go full speed this week. We need to be careful because if he re-aggravates it, he’s back to square one.”
Bramanti went back to full-speed practice Tuesday, but was held out of the game against Brooklyn.
The Wildcats are enjoying the success in this winning streak, but Herrion made it clear that the season is early.
“It’s a game by game thing,” Herrion said. “We aren’t satisfied with these early wins and we are going to play hard. We obviously have a long way to go.”
As for the identity of this young Wildcat squad, Herrion is nervous to make a statement but one thing is clear: The Wildcats are resilient.
“There is a toughness about this team,” Herrion said. “There is a resiliency even though we are very young. At BC we were down in the second half and crawled back. At Bryant we were down 28 points at the half and came back to take the lead. It’s a long season though.”
UNH takes the court on Saturday Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. in Lundholm Gymnasium to play Division III opponent Wheelock College.