(Durham NH) “It was a grind of a game,” said UNH coach Bill Herrion at the post-game press conference.
The Wildcats (14-12) had enough in this close/tough game to defeat Binghamton, 66-62, on Saturday afternoon at Durham.
Both teams entered the game tied at 8-8 in the American East Conference.
Vermont stands alone at the top of the AEC with only one loss, but second place is hardly assured for anyone.
“I don’t spend a lot of time looking at the standings,” said Coach Herrion, “but I admit knowing that each game is big. We’re all trying to survive. The league has never been bunched the way it is this year.”
Evenly matched teams have trouble putting consecutive points together. And that was the case today.
There were six lead changes, and the score was tied nine times. Breathing room was non-existent!
Things went the Wildcats way after the last tie (50-50) with 4:19 remaining in the game.
The sought-after string of consecutive offense happened as UNH scored seven straight points.
A Nick Guadarrama jump shot. A Nick Johnson jumper (his only basket of the game, assisted by Nick Guadarrama). And a three from Marco Foster. The Wildcats had separation (7 points) with 1:49 remaining.
The Bearcats (11-15) stopped the run with a three, but Marco was back with another three returning the margin to seven points with fifty-four seconds left.
“Marco made two enormous three’s,” said Coach Herrion. “He had five against NJIT and four today. He’s a big-time shooter.”
That last-minute three was discussed at the press conference because there was plenty of shot-clock left in what was then a four-point game.
“When you have an elite 3-point shooter you have to let them go when there’s space,” said Coach Herrion.
I asked Marco about the two shots. “It felt great to make them,” he said. “You want to hit the big one. You stay positive.”
Regarding the shot he took with time left on the shot clock in the last minute, he smiled and said, “I was very happy that one went in.”
The Wildcats hit six straight free throws after Marco’s three to secure the victory.
The final regular-season game is Tuesday night at the Tsongas Arena vs UMass Lowell.
“It all comes down to playing well in March,” said Coach Herrion. “We’re looking to get a home game in the tournament. We’re 10-3 at home. We’ve had a very good year here.”
Coach Herrion gave an explanation as to why, beyond Vermont, so many of the rest of the teams are so competitive. “Teams are recruiting out of the transfer portal,” he said. “Therefore, teams can reload quickly. That’s why very few freshmen play.”
Christian Hinckson had a big game for Binghamton finishing with a double/double (fifteen points and fourteen rebounds).
UNH’s Nick Guadarrama had an impressive stat line: 16 points, 7-for-12 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
“Nick was terrific the whole game,” said Coach Herrion. “He was good around the basket where we didn’t have much of an inside presence.”
Marco Foster finished with fourteen points while teammate Blondeau Tchoukulegno added thirteen points.
Binghamton lost to UNH, 69-60, two weeks ago at Binghamton.
After that game, BU coach Levell Sanders cited the 13 offensive rebounds which led to 14 second-chance points as a key in the loss.
Things didn’t improve too much for the Bearcats this time around. UNH had 11 offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points.
Vermont has now won the AEC six straight years.
Today was Senior Day at UNH. Tayler Mattos, Qon Murphy, Nick Guadarrama, and Jayden Martinez were honored.
Jayden had ten points today. He needs twelve more to reach 1000 points. Maybe at Lowell on Tuesday?
Thanks again to Mike Murphy for enabling my visit to this game.
(The pictures will enlarge.)