Men’s basketball fell back to .500 when they traveled to Miami for a date with Florida International University. The Wildcats were plagued by injury over the weekend as they started the game with just seven players but couldn’t make it to the end of the night without another injury. First-year guard Blondeau Tchoukuiengo exited the game late in the first half and wouldn’t return.
FIU quickly gained a nine-point advantage by way of two three-point buckets and a converted and-one opportunity. It wouldn’t be long, however, before a trio of three-pointers from junior guard Josh Hopkins catapulted UNH back into the game.
Hopkins was the only Wildcat to break double figures in the first half, tallying 13 points.
The sides would play cat and mouse for much of the first half as they traded leads for just over 10 minutes. The Wildcats would gain the advantage a few times throughout the first 20 minutes, but the Panthers began to pull away with 5:37 to play in the half.
A layup from senior forward Osasumwen Osaghae took away the final UNH lead of the half and put his side in front 24-23. FIU surged ahead on a 13-4 run to close out the half and head into the locker room ahead 35-27.
A pair of three-balls from senior forward Chris Lester helped erase the eight-point deficit within the first two minutes of the second half – tying the game at 35 all.
Lester shot three-for-five from behind the arc and added 11 points for his squad.
Junior Isaiah Banks and Osaghae gave the Panthers a marginal lead once again with a little extra emphasis. The tandem had three-straight slams to go ahead 41-37.
Osaghae finished the night third on his team in scoring with eight points and also adding seven rebounds.
Each side would jostle for leverage most of the second half as no team could secure a lead for long. UNH would change that, however, with about eight minutes to play. A layup from sophomore forward Nick Guadarrama put UNH ahead 57-56 and looked to be in control of the game. Sophomore guard Jayden Martinez, Hopkins, and Guadarrama helped provide an eight-point lead for the ‘Cats with 4:51 to go.
Each Wildcat starter scored at least 10 points, and Hopkins led the way with 23 points for UNH. Guadarrama and Martinez each recorded a double-double, contributing 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 points, 11 rebounds respectively.
This proved to be too much time for FIU though, as they would tie the game at 69 points with 0:42 remaining. Guadarrama missed a layup as time ticked away, giving the Panthers the ball back and the shot-clock turned off. A foul by Lester would send sophomore forward Antonio Daye Jr. to the line with under two seconds on the clock. Daye sunk the first shot to secure a 70-69 win for FIU.
The ‘Cats came back home following the lost and welcomed Division III Maine Maritime into the Lundholm Gymnasium. UNH remained banged up after returning from Miami, only dressing eight players as senior Mark Carbone, and junior Sean Sutherlin remained sidelined. The team also lost first-year point guard Blondeau Tchoukuiengo for the remainder of the season as he tore his patella tendon at FIU.
Head coach Bill Herrion comment on the status of his team with so many of his guards sidelined at the moment.
“We need people back,” said Coach Herrion. “It’s day-to-day, you can’t rush them back, they’ll come back when they’re ready but hopefully it’s soon.
UNH jumped out to an early 10-2 lead thanks to six early points from Hopkins – including a three-point basket.
The damage wouldn’t stop there as the Wildcats piled on a 15-0 run to take a commanding 38-10 lead with 7:50 to go in the first half of play.
The team played a very methodical brand of offense in the first 20 minutes, only tallying one turnover the entire half which led to a comfortable 35-point lead heading into the locker room.
Guadarrama was once again the most efficient player on the court through the first half, recording 14 points and shooting four-for-five from downtown, while adding eight rebounds.
In the first few trips down the court out of halftime, the Mariners seemed like they may be able to cut into the lead a little bit, but to no avail. MMA strung together a few baskets but never cut the lead to lower than 34 points the rest of the way.
The more time that went by, the less competitive the game got, but that didn’t take the fire out of UNH’s game. Leading 75-30 with 8:05 to go, UNH called a timeout and sophomore guard Marque Maultsby had an animated interaction with his teammates on the sideline following some miscommunication on the previous play.
“It was just a communication issue on the floor; we were trying to run one of our plays and our five man was on the wrong side of the floor, and I started getting really mad.”
Maultsby led the team with 32 minutes in the game as he was forced to take the point guard duties for most of the night. In the absence of Carbone, Sutherlin, and Tchoukuiengo, Maultsby tallied 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
Maultsby mentioned postgame how he’s been adjusting to taking over so much of the workload.
“It’s definitely been difficult with Blondeau going down, Mark, and Sean couldn’t play at FIU, so I’ve got to pick up my stuff. Right now, it’s real tough but hopefully it’ll get better soon.”
The Wildcats slowly buried the Mariners in the second half, leading by as much as 55 points. Maritime simply didn’t have the size to matchup with a Division I opponent and it showed as UNH got back above .500 with their 91-37 win. They are now 5-4 on the season.
“We felt we were going to be the more physically dominant team,” said Coach Herrion. “We just wanted to try to impose our will on them.”
Hopkins and Guadarrama each sat the last 10 minutes of the game as the lead looked to be secure. Hopkins netted 17 points in 25 minutes, and Guadarrama scored 16, and collected nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
Jayden Martinez recorded yet another double-double in the win with 17 points and 10 boards.
UNH will head to Quinnipiac on Saturday, Dec. 7 with a chance to go two games over .500 for the first time since the second game of the season.