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Smith’s big day leads UNH to blowout victory

On Saturday, UNH faced off against the University of Hartford at Lundholm Gymnasium. It was a game that was worrisome for the Wildcats at the beginning but comfortable at the end. The Wildcats beat the Hawks convincingly, 82-52. It was almost a career-night for senior guard Jaleen Smith.

Smith came within one rebound shy of setting a career-best as he hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds. He also scored a game-high 19 points, thus earning him a double-double for the game. Smith wasn’t the only one who had a good game as the wealth was spread offensively for the Wildcats.

Ten players scored for the Wildcats with 15 points coming from the bench. UNH also had four players score in double digits, including Smith. The first half started off slow for the Wildcats as the team only scored three points compared to Hartford’s 13, and shot 25 percent from the field in the first five minutes.

Senior guard Jaleen Smith led the way for the Wildcats with 19 points and 11 rebounds

“Kijana [Love] and the other freshmen gave us a boost of the bench,” Smith said of how the team overcame the early struggles. “As soon they got in, it was an immediate spark for us. Defense turned into offense and it worked.”

UNH caught fire and scored 18 unanswered points to go up 21-13 in the first half. The run didn’t stop there as the Wildcats continued to put the pressure on Hartford. The Wildcats went on a 22-10 run to close out the first half with a commanding 43-23 lead. Smith closed in on his double-double as he netted 12 points and seven rebounds. The positive momentum would not change for the Wildcats in the second half.

Hartford had no answer for the Wildcats’ offensive attack and defensive consistency. The Wildcats found the heart of the Hawks’ defense and got easy buckets in the paint, which contributed to a high 55 percent the team shot from the floor in the game.

The same goes for the other end of the floor for the Wildcats as the team had the paint and the perimeter on lock down. This made it difficult for Hartford to gather any sort of momentum or scoring opportunities as seen in a 30 percent efficiency Hartford shot for the game.

This contributed to the Wildcats having the largest lead in the game at 36 points with 5:02 left in the second half. The lead would be more than comfortable enough for the Wildcats as they won 82-52.

“We don’t talk at all about the standings. I just don’t do that with the team,” head coach Bill Herrion said about the team’s late season standing in America East. “What we talk about is taking care of our own business. We control our own destiny. If we do what we do as a basketball team, everything will fall into place.”

Sophomore forward David Watkins and the UNH bench contributed 15 points in the victory.

The win improves the Wildcats to 17-11 and 8-6 in America East, which still ties them with UMBC for fourth place.

The Wildcats will go on the road for one final time this regular season as the team will travel to face the University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.

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