The UNH Wildcats men’s basketball team (4-3, 3-1) traveled to Orono, ME for a weekend set with the Black Bears (1-4, 1-3) on the heels of a two-game sweep of the Hartford Hawks to start their conference schedule. UNH remains plagued by injuries to their top-end talent but juniors Marque Maultsby and Jayden Martinez took on the team’s top scorer role as they split two games with UMaine.
Maultsby was the only Wildcat to record double-digit points in game one of the set, scoring 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the 56-59 loss.
The Wildcats got out to a noticeably slow start as UMaine was able to build an early seven-point lead behind redshirt first-year forward Ata Turgut. Turgut recorded five points in the first five minutes but failed to find the bottom of the net after that.
By the midway point in the first half, UNH had narrowed the gap to just a one-point deficit before Maultsby put them ahead with eight minutes to play in the half. The Wildcats got up by as much as six points in the first half but no further than that as the sides traded baskets until UNH went into the locker room with a four-point lead.
The Wildcats stormed out of the locker room and built the lead up to nine points just three minutes into the second half. The surge was powered by baskets from junior center Tayler Mattos, redshirt first-year guard Blondeau Tchoukuiengo, Maultsby and Martinez.
It wasn’t long before the Wildcats got cold and allowed UMaine back in the game, however. The team shot 2-for-8 in the ensuing five minutes before the Black Bears took back the lead with 12:12 to play. UMaine never gave up the lead after the 11:13 mark as senior forward Vilgot Larsson put the finishing touches on the Wildcats.
Larsson was second on the team in scoring with 12 points. Sophomore forward Stephane Ingo led the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 34 minutes played.
The Wildcats’ cold spell in the second half proved too much to overcome as their field goal percentage dropped from 42% to 36% from the first half to the second. The team also only shot 9% from behind the arc in the second half.
Despite a lackluster offensive afternoon, head coach Bill Herrion liked what he saw from Maultsby. The junior has gladly taken it upon himself to make up for the offense that’s been missing with junior Nick Guadarrama, and seniors Josh Hopkins and Sean Sutherlin out of the lineup. Herrion says he’s been impressed but the next step for his point guard is to consistently become a scoring threat like he’s shown in the young season.
Maultsby didn’t necessarily show the scoring consistency Herrion had been looking for scoring just six points on 2-of-6 shooting in the second game of the weekend series. He was picked up by fellow juniors Martinez and Qon Murphy, however, en route to the 62-58 win. This improved the team’s record to 3-1 in the America East.
UMaine held the lead for much of the first half, but Martinez willed his side back in front with 5:40 remaining in the half. The forward closed out the final minutes scoring nine straight points for the Wildcats giving them a lead before heading into the locker room.
Martinez continued the charge out of halftime with a fastbreak dunk to kick-off the final 20 minutes of play. UNH went on to build the lead to seven at multiple points in the first few minutes.
A pair of free throws from senior Chris Lester gave UNH their biggest lead of the afternoon up 14 with 5:13 to go. UMaine gave one final push but didn’t have enough to climb back into the lead. Sophomore guard Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish scored 10 of the Black Bear’s last 12 points to give them a chance. Wright-McLeish finished with 12 points on the day.
Finishing just behind Wright-McLeish in scoring was Ingo who posted 10 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks.
UNH was led by Martinez who tallied 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and seven rebounds. Murphy scored 11 with five rebounds and Tchoukuiengo added seven points, three rebounds and four assists.
The Wildcats will welcome the UMBC Retrievers (7-2, 3-1) into Durham for a weekend series on Jan. 9 and 10. Game one will tip-off at 2 p.m. from Lundholm Gymnasium.
Photo Courtesy of UNH