DURHAM, N.H. – In their first America East action of the season, UNH women’s basketball split a two-game weekend series against conference newcomers, NJIT. It was a tale of two games for UNH. The Wildcats lost big in their first matchup against the Highlanders 78-57 but battled back the next day for a 59-53 comeback win.
After a three-pointer to start game one of the two-game set from sophomore guard Héléna Delaruelle, NJIT scored 11 straight points. A five-point burst from UNH made it 11-8, but the Highlanders extended their lead with eight unanswered points. The slow start in the first left the ‘Cats trailing 19-12.
The Wildcats outscored NJIT 20-18 in the second quarter. Senior guard Amanda Torres accounted for 12 of those points. UNH’s lone senior finished the day with 13 points overall.
UNH took the lead with 4:45 to play but failed to capitalize. As the half wound down, UNH missed key shots while NJIT made them. The Highlanders outscored the Wildcats 12-5 to end the half and lead 37-32. The opportunity for UNH to gain control of the game was there but when it came down to execution NJIT was the better team to close the half.
Head coach Kelsey Hogan said the team started high energy but couldn’t capitalize on that energy. Coach Hogan said that these kind of starts to games and halves are one of the growing pains for a young team.
“It’s where our youth shows. We need to start on a high note. Instead of feeling it out we’re able to get after it,” said Hogan.
The game ended with a whimper as NJIT’s lead became insurmountable in the latter half of the fourth. The Wildcats were outscored 41-25 in the second half. NJIT took home their school’s first win in the America East conference and UNH fell to 0-3.
The next day UNH returned to Lundholm Gymnasium for a rematch. At first, it looked like the same old story for the Wildcats. UNH surrendered seven unanswered points to start the game and pushed it to an eight-point lead. The first quarter ended with UNH trailing 18-13.
In the second quarter, another run by NJIT left the Wildcats down 25-15 but with the help of Torres, UNH climbed within four to end the half at 31-27.
The teams exchanged 7-0 runs in the third and then traded three-pointers to end the quarter with NJIT ahead 44-39.
All season coach Hogan has commended her team for their grit and effort even if it didn’t result in a win. The Wildcats showed that grit in the fourth quarter. Hogan’s team played the best quarter of their season outscoring NJIT 20-9. UNH was 5-of-12 shooting and 9-of-11 on free throws in the quarter.
After clawing their way to their first lead of the day, the ‘Cats defense shut down NJIT’s shooting attack that had killed UNH the day before.
Hogan praised the effort of her team and the improvement on defense. She said that the team had struggled with defense in the past games and that she is proud of the work the team put in to get better.
This was Hogan’s first win as UNH’s head coach. The youngest coach in Division I said she couldn’t help but be emotional about it.
“This place is so near and dear to my heart. What makes me even more emotional is the fight that our young ladies had… They just continue to buy in and fight.”
The Wildcats needed scoring to come back and secure the win and they got it once again from Torres. The senior guard matched her career-high with 20 points and finished the game with three assists and seven rebounds.
UNH’s youth stepped up as well. Sophomore guard Brooke Kane had a career day recording her first double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Hogan had words of praise for both Torres and Kane, complementing the two’s ability and work ethic.
The Wildcats are back in action this Thursday at 6 p.m. against UMass on ESPN+.
Photo Courtesy of Michelle Bronner: Senior guard Amanda Torres