UNH men’s basketball: Herrion concerned about Wildcats’ 24-day layoff heading into AE opener

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Cameron Beall

DURHAM, N.H. – A pair of America East (AE) heavyweights will get their conference schedule underway on Thursday night from Burlington, VT. The University of Vermont (UVM) Catamounts (8-4, 0-0) will play host to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (5-4, 0-0) in what could be a preview to the AE Tournament in March. The Wildcats haven’t played a game in more than three weeks, however, so rust could play more of a factor than rest in this one for the road team. 

The path to solidifying themselves among the class of the America East will be an uphill battle to start for the Wildcats. It’s been 24 days since the last time New Hampshire got to suit up for a live game. After two cancelations and two postponements, head coach Bill Herrion is being mindful of any potential rust that may need to be shaken off when they get to Burlington on Thursday night. 

“When you have to stop and you don’t play a game for a while, I think you get a little bit concerned about timing and rhythm and things of that nature,” said Herrion. “The layoff is a concern. 

“You can’t put a price tag on live game competition and keeping your team sharp. You can practice as much as you want, you can practice as hard as you want, you can try and make it as game-like as possible, but there’s nothing like playing a live game against another team.” 

Vermont and New Hampshire were picked second and third respectively in the AE Preseason Coaches’ Poll as well as being the only schools with two players each selected to the Preseason All-Conference Team – senior Ryan Davis and graduate student Ben Shungu for Vermont, and seniors Nick Guadarrama and Jayden Martinez for New Hampshire. 

Herrion gave credit to Vermont as being one of the conference’s best programs, but still thinks his side matches up well with the Catamounts given the amount of size UNH can play with in all their lineups. 

“I think anytime you play Vermont it’s a very difficult game, but I think it’s good we’re playing them the first game out of the gate,” Herrion explained. “I think we’re going to find out an awful lot about where we’re at and where they’re at.” 

UNH’s last game was against the Division III Keene State Owls when they won by a final score of 92-54. Sophomore guard Marco Foster tied a school record with eight 3-pointers made in that game prior to the team’s layoff.  

The Wildcats had lost their previous two Division I games to Bryant and Duquesne but Herrion said he was pleased with how the team had been playing overall. One of his main concerns remains the team’s 3-point shooting. While still being the best team in the conference shooting 36.1% from distance, Herrion said there is still more to be desired in that department from players like Guadarrama, grad student Josh Hopkins and junior Sloan Seymour. The trio is shooting a combined 26.5% after shooting 38.1% from deep a season ago. 

New Hampshire will be without two players who are out with Covid-19 when they tip-off from Patrick Gymnasium at 7 p.m. on Thursday. 

Photo courtesy of UNH Athletics