The University of New Hampshire (UNH) men’s basketball team dropped their first game of the season to the Bryant University Bulldogs in the team’s first Division I game of the year. Head coach Bill Herrion made it abundantly clear that his team’s defensive performance led to the 85-93 loss in the postgame press conference. The Wildcats allowed Bryant to shoot 50 percent from inside the three-point line and Herrion is shouldering much of the blame.
“We better improve on our defense,” said Herrion. “Or else it’s going to be a long year. That was probably one of our worst defensive performances that we’ve had here… I take the blame. We’ve been working hard on our defense. We’re either not teaching it properly or they’re not catching on – I don’t know what it is.”
Herrion went on to note that if he knew his team was going to score 85 points that he would’ve expected them to win by 15.
No team was able to create separation throughout much of the game and UNH found themselves trailing most of the afternoon. The Wildcats didn’t find themselves in the lead until about the midpoint of the first half. They once again struggled from three-point range in the first 20 minutes but were still able to keep pace with the Bulldogs offensively.
The Bulldogs built up an eight-point lead coming out of halftime, but the Wildcats quickly found their stroke from behind the arc. UNH took the lead less than three minutes later.
UNH was clutching to the lead for close to five minutes, but the Bulldogs finished the game on a 15-5 run to put the Wildcats to bed.
As Herrion noted postgame, the team’s defense showed little signs of life against the fast-paced Bryant offense. Bryant’s guards consistently shot within the first few seconds of their shot clock and they continued to find shots around the basket.
“[Bryant] started isolating and going one-on-one, and we just couldn’t guard anybody,” explained Herrion.
The team has also been playing without one of their key contributors in senior guard Sean Sutherlin. Sutherlin, who plays point guard at 6-foot-5 and is among the conference’s best in rebounding, helps the team in terms of depth on the defensive end of the floor.
Herrion explained that without Sutherlin, his starting frontcourt of juniors Nick Guadarrama, Jayden Martinez and graduate student Chris Lester are forced to defend smaller positions. Once Sutherlin returns from injury Herrion thinks they’ll be able to matchup better against opposing guards.
Bryant guards sophomore Michael Green III, junior Peter Kiss and sophomore Charles Pride combined to score 62 of the team’s 93 points. They added 20 rebounds and shot a combined 44 percent from the field. Green led all scorers with 23 points.
In the absence of Sutherlin, first year guard KJ McClurg led the Wildcats with 18 points and shot a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Herrion noted that McClurg was the best guard on the court for the Wildcats in just his second collegiate game.
Guadarrama recorded his second double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. He now averages 17 points, 12 rebounds, shooting 46 percent from the field and is yet to miss a free throw. After leading the team with 37 minutes on Tuesday, Herrion applauded the All-Conference selection.
“We can’t take [Guadarrama] off the court right now. He’s playing that well and he’s that much of a factor. I think right now we’ve got to get a little more help up there.”
Senior guard Josh Hopkins also returned from injury for this game and added 14 points off the bench, shooting 3-of-6 from downtown.
The Wildcats will look to be sharper on defense when they head to Connecticut on Sunday, Dec. 6 to face off against Quinnipiac for a 2 p.m. tip-off.
Photo Courtesy of Stu Horne