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Fast start lifts ‘Cats over Hartford

Once again the Wildcats come out hot and maintained control of the game from the opening tip. The Wildcats shot the ball well, established dominant post play and shared the scoring responsibilities in a 53-42 victory over Hartford on Saturday.

The win makes three in a row for the Wildcats, matching their longest win streak of the season. The stretch is more significant for UNH because all three wins have come over America East opponents. UNH is now 5-9 in conference play, and with two games remaining, the ‘Cats can make a push to land in the middle of the conference pack.

During their win streak the ‘Cats have found success in the first quarter which has given them confidence for the rest of the game. It was the same story Saturday, as UNH outscored Hartford 10-7 in the first quarter. In a back-and-forth, action-packed second frame, the teams tied in scoring but UNH held a 24-21 lead heading into the locker room.

Attributing to the first half success were post players for the Wildcats. Freshman Ashley Storey and senior Stephanie Spoto scored 14 and 12 points respectively. The two combined for only two missed field goals and hauled in nine rebounds. Sophomore Carlie Pogue added eight points.

“I thought that our posts did a great job attacking and scoring inside today. Pogue, Storey and Spoto all finished well at the basket and ran the floor in transition,” assistant coach Brendan Copes said.

In the middle part of the season, UNH struggled to score points in the third quarter. The ‘Cats would allow teams to build substantial leads or allow teams back into games. During their current win streak, they have dominated the third quarter, outscoring their opponents and building on their halftime lead. Against Hartford, the ‘Cats outscored the Hawks 14-9 in the third.

With an eight-point lead heading into the final quarter, the Wildcats just had to stick to their game plan to hold on for the win. Although Hartford threatened, UNH won 53-42.

Even during a tough stretch of losses the ‘Cats never lost their spirit. The team has remained positive all season, even when the results weren’t going its way. Copes and the rest of the staff took pride in the team’s positivity and the energy they brought to practice and games.

“We are playing very well the last few games and it’s really because of the attitude of our kids and the leadership that our seniors bring to the table everyday,” Copes said.

Even though the ‘Cats suffered a few long losing streaks, this stretch of conference wins is proving to the league that the ‘Cats are a fierce contender.

“We can play with anyone in the league and now the kids are starting to believe that.  This is the time of year when seniors need to step up and we saw that today,” Copes said.

UNH has two games left on the regular season schedule, against Vermont and UMBC. The ‘Cats dropped games to both teams earlier in the season, but the ‘Cats are heating up at the right time, with conference playoffs looming in the near future.

The Wildcats will honor their hardworking seniors on Thursday, Feb. 25, at Lundholm Gymnasium against Vermont. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.

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