– Freshman guard Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) scored 18 points and senior forward Mike Christensen (Reston, Va.) added 17 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, but the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team’s comeback fell just short as the University of Vermont grabbed a 64-61 win Saturday afternoon at Patrick Gymnasium.

The Wildcats’ third consecutive loss drops them to 4-11, including 1-3 in America East, while the Catamounts go to 7-9 overall and 2-2 in the conference.

Mike Christensen

After being down by as many as 21 points earlier in the game, the Wildcats found themselves down 48-44 with just over seven minutes remaining in the contest. The Catamounts pushed their lead back to eight with 6:30 left, but tough baskets underneath by freshman Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) and Christensen made the deficit four again with 5:38 to go. A Mike Trimboli 3-pointer and Marqus Blakely layup put Vermont on top 57-48 with 4:28 remaining, and looked to turn the lights out on UNH.

The Wildcats clawed back again, however, when a basket and a 3 by Abreu, UNH’s America East Player of the Game, brought the ‘Cats back to within four with just under three minutes to play. Blakely increased Vermont’s lead to six, but a Christensen trey with 1:23 left made the score 59-56. A pair of free throws from junior guard Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass.) brought UNH within one with 47 seconds left.

After a Trimboli jumper with 19 seconds left put the Catamount lead at three, Gibbs was again fouled going to the hoop, but made just one of two from the line. UNH quickly fouled and Trimboli hit both from the line to put Vermont up 63-59 with just 12 ticks left. Christensen made a quick layup with six seconds left and the Wildcats again sent Trimboli to the line where he would only make one of two. With five seconds remaining, UNH inbounded the ball to Abreu, who drove the ball up the court and had a decent look at a 3 as his momentum carried him to the left. The ball clanked off the rim as time expired, ending one of the most exciting games of the season.

All 18 of Abreu’s points came in the second half.

Vermont started the game on a 13-1 run and was up 21-7 when UNH recorded its first field goal – a Christensen layup – with 4:40 left in the first half. The Wildcats went into the locker room trailing 34-15, but stormed back in the second half, using a pair of 12-2 runs to outscore Vermont, 46-30.

DiLiegro chipped in with six points and nine rebounds, while Gibbs tallied six points, six boards and two assists. Freshman guard Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) added eight points, two rebounds and three assists in his first game back in his hometown.

Trimboli scored 19 points, while Vermont’s America East Player of the Game, Evan Fjeld, netted 14.

After shooting just 10 percent (2-21) from the field in the first half, UNH rebounded to shoot 33 percent (18-55) for the game. The Catamounts shot 41 percent (25-61) from the floor.

The Wildcats return to action Monday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m., when they play host to Dartmouth College at Lundholm Gymnasium.

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