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Game of the Year: Men’s Basketball-UNH vs. University at Albany February 11, 2016. Final score: 69-68 UNH

UNH had improved heading into the 2015-16 season, but they weren’t where they wanted to be. Part of that was due to their early season performances against the top teams in America East. The Wildcats lost to Vermont and Stony Brook, both home games, by a combined 46 points. The next big name for the Wildcats to welcome to Lundholm Gymnasium was three-time conference champion, the Albany Great Danes. Needless to say, this was a must win game for the Wildcats.

The game had 10 lead changes and the score was tied six times. The first half was a battle between Jaleen Smith and Ray Sanders. Smith opened the game by making his first four shots, two of which were three-pointers. Smith accounted for the first six Wildcat points. Sanders, who doesn’t even average 10 points per game, scored the first seven points for the Great Danes and finished the half with 13. Smith finished the half with 16. Going into the break, Albany held a 38-37 lead over the Wildcats.

After struggling in the first half, sophomore center Iba Camara came out with a vengeance in the second half tallying 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. With 12 minutes to play, UNH had built its lead to eight points at 56-48. That lead was not safe. Methodically, the Great Danes crawled back into the game. Sanders and senior guard Evan Singletary took over the game and began to score at will. With just 25 seconds to play, Sanders knocked down two free throws to give Albany its first lead in nearly 14 minutes.

 With just over 10 seconds left in the game and the Wildcats down by two, the play call was simple: get the ball to sophomore Tanner Leissner, and get out of the way. Leissner barreled into the lane, drew contact, and put the ball on the rim, where it bounced twice and fell to tie the game. As Albany players stood in disbelief, Leissner calmly approached the free throw line. Without even blinking, Leissner knocked it down. The buzzer sounded and UNH had beaten Albany 69-68 in an instant classic.

“This is a heck of a win for us,” Herrion said. “Really proud of the kids, they didn’t quit, really fought and showed great resiliency. We are very fortunate to beat a very good basketball team.”

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