By Sam Donnelly, Staff Writer
After a one-point loss on the road at Albany on Wednesday night, the Wildcats bounced back at home Saturday afternoon, dominating UMBC 80-46. Senior guard Matt Miller led the Wildcats with 16 points, while Jacoby Armstrong chipped in with 14 points. Cody Joyce led the Retrivers with 14 points.
“We knew after the Albany game that we had to come back and play,” Miller said. “We knew what we had to defensively and we played hard.”
The Wildcats dominated right from the beginning, scoring the game’s first eight points and never surrendering the lead. Freshman Tanner Leissner led the Wildcats in the first half with 10 points in just 11 minutes of play. Leissner returned this game after being forced to miss the game at Albany with a concussion he sustained in practice earlier in the week.
The Wildcats shot an astounding 56 percent in the first half, including 7 for 11 from beyond the arc, and the Wildcats held a 41-18 lead at the half. UNH used its defense to cause nine UMBC turnovers and scoring 10 points off those turnovers.
“We were really active defensively,” head coach Bill Herrion said. “Steals, deflections, active hands are a big part of what we do defensively. From that standpoint it was really good today.”
The offensive and defensive performance carried over into the second half as well. Miller opened the second half by scoring seven of the Wildcats first nine points in the second half. Once again the Wildcats defense stepped up and caused seven turnovers for seven more points. Miller hit a three pointer with just over six minutes left in the game to all but seal the victory as the Wildcats cruised to a 80-46 win.
A huge key to the Wildcats victory Saturday and pretty much all season has been the play of the bench. The Wildcat bench outscored UMBC 39-14 in bench points; something Herrion says has been strength all year.
“We’ve got a lot of players,” Herrion said. “ It’s a good situation but its tough because you want to give guys chances to play. Our bench has been a strength all year and it’s helped us win games.”
UNH also finished the game shooting 59 percent from the floor and made 10 three pointers.
“We can shoot the ball,” Herrion said. “When we are making shots, we are a pretty dangerous basketball team.”
With the victory, UNH improves to 14-10 with a 7-4 conference record. The Terriers fall to 3-20 and 1-9 in conference.
After the victory against UMBC, The Wildcats will go on the road to take on a Hartford team that beat UNH at home earlier this season, 68-67. Despite the Wildcats recent success, Herrion is sticking to his mantra. One game at a time.
“They are a good team,” Herrion said. “They are going to be playing with urgency like we are. What we are selling our guys is lets just play as well as we can every next game.”
UNH has not experienced much success as of late, including a dismal season a year ago where the Wildcats could only muster six total wins. This season, the Wildcats are looking at a top-four position in the America East and have already doubled last year’s win total.
“We are all going through this for the first time,” Herrion said. “We’re young.”
As for how the players feel, it is relatively simple.
“It’s fun when you’re winning,” Jacoby Armstrong said.
UNH will play Hartford on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Chase Arena.