STONY BROOK, N.Y. – The University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team (6-5, 5-3) fell four spots in the America East standings after being swept at home by the UMBC Retrievers (10-3, 6-2) a weekend ago. The pressure was on after falling to .500, and a date with the then conference-leading Stony Brook Seawolves (6-6, 4-2) on the horizon.
The Seawolves owned a five-game winning-streak heading into the weekend and had an opportunity to bury the Wildcats into eighth place in the conference with a sweep. Junior transfer student Qon Murphy had other plans, however. Murphy dropped a career-high 24 points on Saturday and a trio of clutch three-pointers on Sunday to secure the sweep of the Seawolves. Stony Brook now sits at third in the standings with the Wildcats lurking in fourth.
Neither side was able to gain an edge through the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s contest. Both teams traded baskets keeping each other within reach. With about nine minutes to play in the half, however, Stony Brook began to gain momentum and built an eventual 13-point lead with 3:55 to play.
A pair of free throws and three-pointers from junior forward Jayden Martinez helped minimize the damage before halftime. UNH went into the locker room only down five. Martinez led the Wildcats through the first 20 minutes with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Stony Brook junior guard Juan Felix Rodriguez matched that with 10 points and six boards in the first half.
UNH outscored Stony Brook 52-30 in the second half but it wasn’t until late when they finally took a lead. The Wildcats didn’t take the lead back until 8:06 remained. The trio of Murphy, junior forward Nick Guadarrama and redshirt first-year guard Nick Johnson caught fire from that point on to finish the game on a 28-11 run.
UNH shot 63% from the field in the second half with 57% accuracy from three-point range.
Murphy led with 24 points, Martinez followed with 16 points and 10 boards – his fourth double-double of the season – while Guadarrama and Johnson added 14 and 13 respectively. Guadarrama’s 14 came by way of 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 from downtown.
Sunday’s game told a different story as neither team got ahead by more than eight in the first half and four in the second half.
UNH found themselves chasing Stony Brook for much of the first half. A pair of threes from graduate student Chris Lester helped erase an eight-point lead for the Seawolves ahead of halftime. The sides went into the locker room knotted at 31 apiece.
Guadarrama and Murphy each only scored two points in the first half before taking matters into their own hands in the second. Guadarrama scored 12 in the second half shooting 3-of-6 from the field and 6-of-8 from the foul line.
Murphy drained a pair of game-tying threes to tie the score at 49 and 52 to keep Stony Brook from pulling ahead. He also sunk a go-ahead triple with under three minutes remaining and Guadarrama took care of business from that point on.
Guadarrama sunk three of his final four free throw attempts to put the game on ice and give his side a 67-64 win completing the sweep of Stony Brook.
UNH head coach Bill Herrion questioned his team’s winning DNA after being swept by UMBC. His veterans responded promptly in a weekend that could have dictated the direction of their season.
Martinez and Lester followed Guadarrama’s 14 with 12 points each. Murphy was the fourth Wildcat to notch double-digits with 11 points shooting 3-of-6 from three-point range.
Stony Brook was led by 14 points and four rebounds from junior guard Tykei Greene and 13 from redshirt sophomore forward Frankie Policelli.
The Wildcats will play host to UAlbany (3-5, 3-3) on Jan. 23 and 24 with an opportunity to jump into one of the top spots in the conference nearly midway through the season. UNH sits just one game behind top-ranked UMBC and could leap them if they take advantage of seventh-place UAlbany.
Photo Courtesy of Michelle Bronner