As the saying goes, “history repeats itself.” This rings true for the Wildcats as their conference title hopes were spoiled in the America East semifinals in Burlington, Vermont for the second straight season.
The UNH men’s basketball team faced the number one seed University of Vermont Catamounts in the America East semifinals on Monday, March 6. The Wildcats were coming off of a rubber match victory at home against UMBC in the America East quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 1 and were looking to finally get over the hump that is their border rival, Vermont.
However, what followed was anything but a competitive game. The Wildcats lost to the Catamounts 74-41 in a game where UNH couldn’t get any sort of momentum together against Vermont. The Catamounts shut down UNH’s offense to start the contest as the Wildcats never truely found their offensive rhythm, shooting 28 percent on the night.
“[Vermont] was on a mission with unbelievable focus, especially defensively. They dominated us defensively,” head coach Bill Herrion said of the defeat. “We just couldn’t go anywhere with the basketball and we didn’t have any answers.”
Neither of the go-to-scorers for UNH had great games as junior forward Tanner Leissner scored four points and shot 2-15 from the field. Senior guard Daniel Dion netted six pointswhile going 4-4 from the free throw line. Senior guard Jaleen Smith was the only one out of the trio that scored in double figures as he netted 13 points and grabbed three rebounds.
The scoring UNH did generate came from an unlikely player. Freshman forward Luke Rosinski posted a career-high 12 points and grabbed five rebounds against the Catamounts. Rosiniski nearly matched his season-high scoring total of 19 points with his performance. Going into the contest, it looked as if UNH might contend with the top-seeded Catamounts.
The Wildcats struggled to put the ball in the basket in the first half, however, shooting 24 percent in the frame. The scoring was all knotted up at four apiece before Vermont rattled off eight straight points to lead, 12-4, roughly halfway through the first half. The Wildcats finally got to double-digits with seven minutes left in the first half. However, Vermont continued to assert itself, pushing its lead to as much as 19 points. The Wildcats went to the locker room at halftime facing a 37-20 deficit.
The story of the second half was the same as in the first. The second half was dominated by the Catamounts with them increasing their lead to as many as 36 points by the final two minutes of the game. Rosinski and the ‘Cats battled but ultimately fell, 74-41. Even with the defeat and the spring graduations of Smith and Dion, the future still looks bright for the Wildcats.
“This league is tough. The Vermont’s and the Stony Brook’s, the teams here are just tough,” Smith said after the loss. “But UNH has had massive upgrades and I think next year [UNH] can contend for a championship.”
UNH’s run in the America East playoffs ended Monday night but postseason basketball is still in play, as the team will hope to get a bid to Collegeinsider.com tournament. UNH has played in the tournament in each of the last two seasons.