By Sam Donnelly, Staff Writer
UNH has been flying under the radar all season, until now. The Wildcats pummeled Stony Brook 63-48 to push their winning streak to five games. Freshman Tanner Leissner led the Wildcats with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Ronnel Jordan chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds. The Sea Wolves were ranked second in America East, while UNH sat in fourth — with Saturday’s win, the Wildcats jump into the second spot.
“Start to finish, this is as close to a full game as we have played,” UNH head coach Bill Herrion said. “Forty minutes defensively for sure.”
The Wildcats grabbed the lead at 10-8 off a Leissner layup and never let up. Leissner scored 12 out of the Wildcats first 18 points.
“I had a little bit of nerves,” Leissner said. “Those guys are tough, but once I hit that first shot I got a little confidence and I felt good.”
After increasing their first half lead to 11, the Wildcats went scoreless for the final six minutes of the first half, allowing the Sea Wolves to crawl within four. The half ended with the score 29-25.
“We were up 12 and started shooting jump shots,” Herrion said. “We got perimeter happy and we got stuck not being able to score.”
After a lack-luster offensive performance at the end of the first half, the Wildcats came out shooting. Senior Matt Miller nailed two straight 3s to give the Wildcats some breathing room. The Wildcat defense then took over, causing four turnovers on six Stony Brook possessions. UNH forced 13 turnovers the entire game and scored 15 points off those turnovers.
The Wildcats increased their lead to 15 when Jordan scored an old-fashioned, three-point play on a drive to the basket. Stony Brook threw on a full court press, but it didn’t phase the Wildcats as the team cruised to a 63-48. UNH finished shooting 41 percent, while holding Stony Brook to just 31 percent and 23 percent from beyond the arc.
In their previous matchup, the Seawolves out rebounded the Wildcats 43-23, including 14-5 on the offensive glass. Herrion made it clear that rebounding was a key to this victory for the Wildcats.
“They are a great offensive rebounding team,” Herrion said. “We boxed out today and that was huge.”
For the 18th time this season, Leissner finished with double-digit scoring. Leissner also drew the assignment of defending 2014 America East player of the year, Jameel Warney.
“The consistency for a true freshman is really impressive,” Herrion said. “A lot of freshman go through ups and downs, and he hasn’t.”
Despite all of his talent, Leissner understands that the team comes first.
“My mindset is play the hardest I can,” Leissner said. “Our team plays for each other. Coach Herrion hasn’t had the best seasons in the past, so we are playing for him.”
The Wildcats improve to 13-9, with a 6-3 conference record. Stony Brook falls to 15-9 and 6-3 in America East. UNH will go on the road to play an undefeated Albany team that holds the first place position in America East.
“Our guys play hard,” Herrion said. “These kids never quit. They are a resilient group of guys.”