WILDCATS 84, BOBCATS 69
DURHAM, N.H. – In their first true test of the season the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (2-2, 0-0) certainly looked the part and made quick work of the Quinnipiac Bobcats (3-2, 0-0) by an 84-69 final. Senior forward Jayden Martinez was the difference maker for UNH and is showing early signs at a run for America East Player of the Year.
Following a 33-point, 14-rebound performance on 13-of-15 (86.7%) shooting from the field, UNH head coach Bill Herrion said Martinez had one of the best performances he’s seen since Tanner Leissner who is now playing overseas in Lithuania.
“[Jayden and I] have had many talks through the years of what I think of his ability, his upside and where I think he can go with his game,” said Herrion. “I don’t know if he really believed it earlier in his career. I hope he’s starting to believe it now.”
Martinez was not featured on a preseason All-Conference team prior to last season before finishing the year as a member of the America East All-Conference First Team. His unpreceded leap in development has continued to his senior season. Since joining the Wildcats in 2018, Martinez has seen his scoring average take a considerable leap in each of his four seasons. From 7.9 points per game his first season to 10.5, 13.7 and now 20.3 through the first four games of this season.
Martinez is shooting 55.2% from the field and 41.2% from the 3-point line this season and says he’s appreciative that Herrion allows him to take so many shots. Coming off a season when Martinez led the conference in 3-point percentage, it seems unlikely that his coach would revoke those privileges anytime soon.
One of the biggest factors for Martinez on Tuesday night, however, was his desire to bounce back from his performance at Providence on Thursday. He had just seven points on 3-of-13 (23.2%) shooting from the field. Herrion noted that after his 21-point game at Marquette, “he wasn’t going to walk into the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and have no one know who he was.”
“Now the bullseye on his back has really gotten big, but for good players that’s the price tag that comes with it,” said Herrion.
Last season Vermont’s junior forward Ryan Davis was named the Player of the Year in the conference averaging 18.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and shooting 58% from the field. Martinez has proven his ability to post numbers in this realm and has put himself squarely in the conversation for the conference’s most prestigious award.
Standing 6-foot-7, Martinez is one of the league’s best rebounders while also showing his ability to score from anywhere on the floor. He’ll be the top option for an ascending Wildcats team, but the talent certainly doesn’t stop there for Herrion and the rest of the roster. New Hampshire will have one of the deepest rotations in the America East this season, and Herrion has made his opinions clear about his team’s upside.
“We could start eight, nine or ten guys and still be effective,” said Herrion. “I think our depth is really good. Unfortunately, some of our guys aren’t going to get the minutes they want on any given night, that’s part of the game. But I think we’ve got a chance to be a really good team if we all buy in.”
New Hampshire will get back to work at practice on Thanksgiving morning before their next matchup with Holy Cross (1-4, 0-0). They’ll go on the road Saturday for a 5 p.m. tip-off from Worcester, Mass. on ESPN+.
Photo courtesy of China Wong