UNH men’s basketball: Tchoukuiegno’s 23 points gets Wildcats back on track against Maine



Cameron Beall, Sports Editor

DURHAM, N.H. – After an uninspiring loss to the last-place University of Maine Black Bears (4-14, 1-6) on Monday night, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (8-7, 3-3) had a clear message heading into Wednesday’s contest to be sure they’d be on the right side of the teams’ second meeting in three days. 

“If you just look at the white board there wasn’t much said before the game as far as X’s and O’s,” said UNH head coach Bill Herrion after the win. 

Pride, respect, toughness, fight, accountability and heart were the six words that Herrion had circled on the white board in the team meeting room prior to game time. 

Sophomore point guard Blondeau Tchoukuiegno echoed the same message after leading his side with 23 points, four rebounds and three steals. He said the Wildcats took Monday’s loss personally and was proud of the well-rounded effort on Wednesday. 

“The whole team played good today,” said Tchoukuiegno. “It was a good way to bounce back from last game. It was all about pride, all about toughness, all about being better than Monday.” 

On Monday Tchoukuiegno added just five points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field in what Herrion described as the guard’s worst game of the season. After a team-high 23 in the win, however, Herrion made sure to note that, “really good players can shake bad games off and bounce back.” 

While senior forwards Jayden Martinez and Nick Guadarrama often get much of the attention as New Hampshire’s top offensive threats, Tchoukuiegno is quietly solidifying himself in the same category as the two All-Conference selections. Through 15 games this season, the guard is averaging 11.5 points, a conference-high 4.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals all while shooting 40.8% from the field and 42.9% from the 3-point line. 

“He’s a great kid,” explained Herrion. “He’s unbelievably coachable, he’s the same every day. The way he plays in the game is the way he practices every day. He has one speed. You have so much respect and so much appreciation for those players.” 

With the win, the Wildcats improve to 7-0 at home this season while they’re just 1-7 away from the confines of Lundholm Gymnasium. Herrion said he simply doesn’t know what’s been hindering his team when they go on the road, but they’re going to have to figure it out to be able to climb back up the standings. 

In New Hampshire’s five Division I home games to this point they’re outscoring opponents by nearly 12 points per game and scoring an average of 71. On the road, however, UNH has been outscored by an average of 6.6 and only scoring an average of 63.5 points in eight games. 

Herrion often talks about how the first four minutes of the game can be the most important. This is an area UNH hasn’t been able to take advantage of as much on the road, but the message clearly got through to the players on Wednesday in their return to Durham. The Wildcats jumped out to a 15-0 lead at the first media timeout – seven of which came from Tchoukuiegno. New Hampshire was able to hold the 15-point lead heading into halftime thanks to a last-second 3-pointer from sophomore transfer guard Marco Foster. 

Foster earned his first career start on Wednesday and made sure to keep himself in the running for that spot again on Friday after reaching 14 points for the third time in the last four games. He shot 4-of-10 from deep and gave New Hampshire the offensive boost that Herrion had been looking for. 

Martinez has been a player that’s struggled to find is usual offensive swagger since conference play has begun but has slowly been finding his rhythm. He had been averaging just eight points over his previous four America East contests before dropping 17 against Maine on Wednesday. Herrion has said that he thinks Martinez struggled with the extra defensive pressure he had been receiving after a breakout season in 2020-21. The emergence of Tchoukuiegno and Foster will likely relinquish some of the attention paid towards Martinez, however, and open the New Hampshire offense moving forward. 

The game originally scheduled for Saturday hosting the Stony Brook Seawolves (12-7, 4-2) has been moved to Friday at 5 p.m. due to the impending winter storm headed toward the northeast on Saturday. 

Photo courtesy of Andrew Yourell