As if a double overtime loss to UMBC wasn’t painful enough for the Wildcats, a blown lead and a missed game-tying free throw was the icing on the proverbial heartbreak cake.
The UNH men’s basketball team traveled to New York to face America East opponent Stony Brook University on Wednesday. The Wildcats fell to the Seawolves 64-61. UNH had a 32-24 lead at the end of the first half, but allowed Stony Brook to score 40 points in the second half compared to UNH’s 29.
It came down to the wire in the final seconds of the game. Junior forward Tanner Leissner came to the free-throw line with the score 62-60 and two shots. Leissner made the first but unfortunately clanked the second off the front of the rim. Stony Brook then scored on the other end and sealed the loss for the Wildcats.
Leissner struggled as he finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds and six turnovers. The calls did not go Leissner’s way either as he had four fouls with three coming in the first half.
“[Leissner] has established himself as a premier player in this league. But now teams are beginning to focus on him more,” head coach Bill Herrion said of his forward’s struggles. “Early foul trouble cut into his production. We had to sit him for a significant amount minutes which is why he wasn’t able to bounce back.”
Senior guard Daniel Dion carried most of the scoring output for the Wildcats as he lit it up from behind the three point line the entire game. 18 of Dion’s game-high 22 points were three-pointers as he shot 6-11. Dion shot an efficient 50 percent for the game as well. The game itself started off well for the Wildcats.
Stony Brook led 4-2 just three minutes into the game before New Hampshire held on for the rest of the opening half. UNH went on a 13-4 run to increase the lead to 15-8 just about halfway through the first half. UNH pushed the lead to 30-19 with under three minutes to go. But the early makings of a comeback were seen in the final minutes as Stony Brook outscored UNH 5-2 to close the half.
After both teams scored a bucket to begin the second, the Seawolves scored 14 straight points to take a 40-34 lead with 13:16 to go. Stony Brook held on to the lead, even stretching its lead to nine points midway through the second half
The Wildcats trailed by four with 2:24 to go. Dion was fouled in the paint and hit two free throws to cut it to two points. However, both teams came to a stalemate until Leissner was fouled in the paint with 35 seconds to go. He made the first but missed the second. Stony Brook’s Lucas Woodhouse went down the court and scored to put the lead at three points with 10 seconds left. The game would end 64-61.
Overall, both teams on the stat sheet were almost even. UNH shot 40 percent for the game compared to Stony Brook’s 44.6 percent. The same goes for free-throw percentage with UNH shooting 63.2 percent and Stony Brook shooting 58.8 percent. But the deciding factor was how both teams scored.
UNH scored mostly from three pointers, whereas Stony Brook consistently scored from inside the paint. This allowed them to get high-percentage looks and easy buckets. UNH had no answer for the Stony Brook attack, which contributed to the Wildcats’ defeat.
“We did not do a good job defensively. Playing on the road is hard to begin with,” Herrion said of his team’s performance. “We had a really strong first half but not playing all 40 minutes hurts us and we have to do that in the first place. Also, we must cut down on making mistakes, especially late in games.”
UNH falls to 14-9 overall and 5-4 in the America East for the season. Their next game will be at home as the ‘Cats will face the University at Albany Monday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.