(Durham NH) The UNH Wildcats missed a ton of easy shots in the first half and visiting UMBC was able to hang around for a half trailing only by two.
The second half was a different story.
UNH made shots and defended well enough for the Wildcats to get a 56-51 win over the Retrievers on Saturday afternoon at Lundholm Gymnasium.
UNH is now 5-7 in the America East while UMBC drops to 4-8.
Despite the losing conference records both teams will make the playoffs. How? Hartford is currently winless in the conference and there are only four games left in the regular season. The rest of the season will be about positioning (getting a home game) come playoff time.
The first half today was about missed layups for the Wildcats and turnovers for the Retrievers. The negatives offset each other and there were eleven lead changes along the way.
“We came together in the locker room at halftime,” explained UNH senior Caroline Soucy post-game, “and said that this wasn’t the way it was going to go in the second half. We were going to make shots and we’d stay together. Obviously, we did it.”
UNH coach Maureen Magarity switched her team away from the man-to-man very quickly. “They were getting into the paint way too easily,” she said.
That move was important because on this afternoon UMBC strugged against it.
“Them changing defenses definitely affected us,” said UMBC coach Johnetta Hayes afterwards. “We didn’t adjust to it quick enough. It took us two-or-three possessions to figure it out.”
One player definitely impacted was UMBC high scorer Te’yJah Oliver. Te’yjah was limited to six points including a three off the backboard from straight away.
“She averages eighteen and she only had six,” said Coach Hayes. “That changes the game a little bit. She wasn’t aggressive enough.”
The UNH zone had two players near Te’yjah almost every time she touched the ball. “Helen (Delaruelle) and Amanda (Torres) did a nice job against her on the perimeter,” added Coach Magarity.
Te’yjah ended up with a season low (eight) in shot attempts.
Senior Ashley Storey (18 points/7 rebounds) paced the Wildcats in both categories.
Junior Amanda Torres (15 points) and senior Caroline Soucy (12 points) also scored in double figures for UNH.
“We had three players in double figures,” said Coach Magarity. “We have been stressing that we have to get better scoring balance. The magic number seems to be getting three in double figures.”
“Almost everyone contributed today,” said Ashley Storey. “We have struggled scoring. We only got fourteen in the first half on Wednesday in the loss to Vermont. We’ve been working on our offense lately rather than our defense.”
The balanced scoring was missing from UMBC. Junior Janee’a Summers (16 points) was the only Retriever to reach double figures.
“We won’t win if we don’t get at least three kids in double figures,” said Coach Hayes. “We had only one today. Our turnovers (21) held down our shot attempts.”
UNH broke away from a 27-27 tie with 1:32 left in the first half. They would score eight straight points stretching into the second half.
Freshman Helena Delaruelle had a hand in the six points that started the second half. She hit a shot in the paint and assisted on layups by Amanda Torres and sophomore Maggie Ahearn.
Helena had eight assists in the game.
An old-fashioned 3-point play helped UMBC narrow their deficit to three (35-32) with 4:37 to go in the 3rd period.
A Caroline Soucy three and an Ashley Storey layin (assist Maggie Ahearn) enabled the Wildcats to get their biggest lead (48-36) two minutes into the final quarter.
UMBC did not go away. Three minutes later they had cut the UNH lead to five after jumpers by Jen Gast and Janee’a Summers and that straightaway three off the backboard by Te’yJah Oliver.
UNH had been in a lot of close games and had lost quite a few of them. Would this be another one? Not this afternoon.
“We know what it’s like to be in close games and lose them,” said Amanda Torres post-game. “We just needed to finish, and we did.”
There weren’t a lot of fouls called in the second half and that hurt the Retrievers late in the game. UMBC wanted to foul, take their chances on UNH free throws, and then make plays down the other end.
“I made some poor coaching decisions near the end,” admitted Coach Hayes. “We needed to start fouling them earlier. Too much time went off the clock. Now I’m taking three timeouts home with me.”
Coach Hayes: “I thought our post players showed up today. (Jen Gast had a game-leading twelve rebounds). It was good to have Janee’a Summers back in the lineup. We just didn’t get the ball to her enough.”
Coach Magarity: “Except for Stony Brook the league is close. We’re pushing to host a playoff game. Hartford is next and they nearly beat us last time.”
Te’yJah Oliver reached 1000 points for UMBC in late December. She had twenty-six points and six rebounds in their last game against UMass Lowell.
The loss ends a two-game UMBC win streak. The win ends a 3-game slide for UNH.
Four weeks ago, UNH rallied to defeat the Retrievers, 72-63. “We were up by four going into the last quarter and lost by nine,” recalled Coach Hayes. “They crushed us on the boards.”
I was impressed with the music and enthusiasm of the UNH pep band.
Thanks to Mike, Brandon, and Dan for taking care of me at UNH. For someone usually desperate for stats before and after a game, UNH overwhelmed me (in a good way) with all the information provided.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)