MEN'S BASKETBALL FACES HARTFORD IN AMERICA EAST QUARTERFINALS
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DURHAM, N.H.
-- The University of New Hampshire men's basketball team will take on the University of Hartford in the quarterfinal round of the America East tournament on Saturday, March 8 at 6 p.m. at the Events Center on the campus of Binghamton University in Vestal, N.Y. The Wildcats and Hawks hook up for the 49th time, including the fourth time in the America East tournament. Hartford leads the all-time series, 31-17, and has a 2-1 advantage in the three tournament games. The last 10 meetings have been pretty even, with each team winning five games. Each team has also played well on their home court. The Wildcats have won four straight against the Hawks at Lundholm Gymnasium, while the Hawks have won six straight over the ‘Cats at Chase Arena. Hartford has not won in Durham since an 85-58 win Jan. 28, 2004, and UNH has not won at Hartford since an 80-78 triumph Jan. 12, 2002. All three games that the two teams have played at neutral sites were tournament games, with the Wildcats winning the most recent matchup, a 66-62 victory in the quarterfinal round March 4, 2006 that put the ‘Cats into the semifinals for the first time since 1995 and just the fifth time overall. The two teams split the regular-season series this year, as they have done for the past four seasons.

LAST TIME OUT

Senior Mike Christensen scored 24 points and junior guard Tyrece Gibbs added 19 to lead the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team to a 68-65 win over the University of Vermont in the team’s regular season finale Feb. 28 on Senior Day in front of a season-high 1,853 fans at Lundholm Gymnasium.
   
The win, which snapped an eight-game losing streak against Vermont, closed out the Wildcats’ regular season record at 9-19, including 6-10 in America East. The Catamounts dropped to 14-14 overall and 8-7 in the conference. The win marked the first for the Wildcats against Vermont since a 78-57 victory Feb. 21, 2004 at Lundholm.  
   
Christensen finished up his regular season Wildcat career on a high note, filling the stat line with four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. His 24 points came on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc and 6-of-8 from the free throw line. Gibbs also filled the stat line, tallying three rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal.
      
Trailing by seven (46-39) midway through the second half, the Wildcats went on a 14-1 run, using a nifty layup from Gibbs, who was hammered on the play, to take a 48-47 lead with 8:06 left in regulation. The lead was UNH’s first since its 23-22 advantage with 5:03 remaining in the opening frame. The ‘Cats pushed their lead to six before a layup and a 3-pointer by Mike Trimboli cut the deficit to 53-52 with 3:58 left.
      
As they have all year, the Wildcats refused to quit, getting a huge 3 from freshman guard Tyrone Conley that put them up 58-52 with 2:45 left. A dunk by freshman center James Valladares looked to seal the win when it gave UNH a 66-60 lead with 23 seconds left, but after Marqus Blakely made two from the line, and Valladares converted on 1-of-2, a Colin McIntosh trey cut UNH’s advantage to 67-65 with three seconds left. Christensen made 1-of-2 at the stripe, giving the Catamounts a chance to tie the game, but their long inbound attempt was picked off by freshman guard Alvin Abreu as time expired. Conley scored 10 points and added three steals, while Abreu tallied nine points, seven rebounds, five steals and two assists in 39 minutes.
      
UNH led 15-9 to begin the game before Vermont reeled off a 12-2 run to grab a 21-17 lead with 9:26 left in the first half. Back-to-back 3s by Christensen, UNH’s America East Player of the Game, and Conley put the Wildcats up by two with 6:55 left. The two teams went back and forth for the remainder of the half, with the Catamounts taking a 32-29 lead at the break.  
   
Freshman center Dane DiLiegro pulled down seven rebounds, while Valladares gave the ‘Cats great minutes off the bench, tallying three points, three rebounds and two assists in 14 minutes.
      
Blakely and Trimboli led four Vermont scorers in double-digits with 16 points apiece. Blakely, who finished with eight rebounds, saw his streak of 10 straight double-doubles halted by the Wildcats. Timothy McCrory, the Catamounts’ America East Player of the Game, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds.
      
UNH played what is maybe its best game of the year, shooting 40 percent from the floor (21-52), 50 percent from long range (10-20) and 80 percent from the line (16-20), while turning the ball over just nine times. The win is UNH’s first in its nine games that have been decided by five points or less this season.
   
This marks the final regular season game for both Christensen and senior forward Shawn Tobey. Tobey, who started just the second game of his career, played 11 minutes and finished with three points, all of which came on the first 3-pointer of his career that put the Wildcats up 9-7 just five minutes in.

TOURNAMENT TESTED


You could say UNH Head Coach Bill Herrion knows what it takes to win in the America East tournament. Herrion, who is making his 11 appearance overall, is the all-time winningest coach in the tournament with 19 wins. His 19-7 record is good for a .731 winning percentage, which is the highest among active America East coaches and fourth highest overall. In eight appearances with Drexel from 1991 to 1999, Herrion was 18-5 while capturing three titles. He is 1-2 in two appearances with UNH.

HERRIO HAVING THE HAWKS' NUMBER?

UNH Head Coach Bill Herrion will put his 4-0 record versus Hartford in the America East tournament on the line in the quarterfinal matchup. Herrion was 3-0 against the Hawks while at the helm in Drexel, and is 1-0 since taking control at UNH.

MAKING HISTORY


The Wildcats will look to become the first seventh seed to at least advance to the finals of the America East men’s basketball tournament. There is a precedent there, however. Last season, the UMBC women’s basketball team became the first seventh seed in America East basketball history to win the tournament. UMBC knocked off the top three seeds in the tourney on its way to victory.

SETTING PRECEDENTS

 
The Wildcats will aim to win just their tournament game as the seventh seed, and will do it trying knock off the No. 2 seed for the first time in school history. The ‘Cats are 1-4 as the No. 7 seed and are 0-4 trying to beat a No. 2.

LUCKY SEVEN?


Both the UNH men’s and women’s basketball teams will head into their respective conference tournaments as the No. 7 seven seed.

CHRISTENSEN CAPTURES PLAYER OF THE WEEK


The America East conference announced March 3 that senior forward Mike Christensen was named America East Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for the week ending March 2.
      
Christensen picked up his first Player of the Week award on the final week of his regular-season career. On top of it being Christensen’s first Player of the Week award during his time at UNH, it is also the first time a UNH player has received the accolade since Jermaine Anderson shared the award Jan. 21, 2007. Prior to that, Blagoj Janev (twice), Ronnie Davis and Ben Sturgill (twice) all shared the award on five separate weeks over the course of three seasons, making this the first outright Player of the Week award for the program since Marcus Bullock took home the honor Feb. 17, 2002.
      
Christensen capped his regular-season career in style in a 68-65 win at home over Vermont on Feb. 28, the Wildcats’ only game of the week. Christensen scored 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc, and was also 6-of-8 at the line. Christensen also tallied four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
       
The tri-captain, who was selected to the America East All-Rookie Team at the end of the 2004-05 season, won his only other weekly award when he captured Rookie of the Week honors Feb. 6, 2005.
       
Christensen finished the regular season second on the team in rebounding (5.8 rpg), second in blocks (0.54 bpg), third in scoring (12.4 ppg) and third in assists (2.5 apg). He was also third in field goal percentage (.384), 3-point field goal percentage (.370) and free throw percentage (.764).

NATIONALLY RANKED

The Wildcats are ranked within the top 100 teams in the country in a pair of categories. Their 9.4 3-pointers per game is good for ninth in the nation, while their 3-point field goal percentage of 37.4 is good for 75th in the country.
   
Junior guard Tyrece Gibbs ranks 56th with a 3-point field goal percentage of 40.5, and 57th with 2.8 treys per game.

BREAKING THE HABIT


In their Feb. 28 win over Vermont, the Wildcats shattered some trends that were not quite going their way. Most importantly, the ‘Cats won their first close game, going to 1-8 in games decided by less than six points. It was also UNH’s first win against teams over .500 (1-7) and its first win while playing on TV (1-4). Another “first” from the game? UNH is 1-0 when Shawn Tobey is in the starting lineup.

LOGICALLY SOUND


The Wildcats are proof that the better you shoot, the better your chances of winning the game are. The ‘Cats are 9-4 when they shoot 40 percent or higher from the floor, while they are 0-15 when shooting under 40 percent.

POINTS, REBOUNDS, ASSISTS, OH MY!


Senior Mike Christensen currently has recorded 1,067 points, 511 rebounds and 207 assists in his career. Christensen is just the second player in the history of UNH men’s basketball to tally at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in a career. Dan Nolan amassed 1,258 points, 826 rebounds and 219 assists from 1980 to 1984.

TREY-MENDOUS STREAK FOR 'CATS

Heading into tonight’s contest UNH has recorded at least one 3-pointer in 487 consecutive games, a streak that spans 17 years. The last time the ‘Cats have not tallied a trey was in a 59-47 loss to Dartmouth College on Jan. 8, 1991 when they were 0-for-3 from behind the arc.

ABREU GARNERS THIRD WEEKLY CONFERENCE HONOR


The America East conference announced Feb. 25 that freshman guard Alvin Abreu was named America East Men’s Basketball Co-Rookie of the Week for the week ending Feb. 24. This marks the third time Abreu has garnered the award this season.
       
Abreu, who averaged 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists this week, started his week by nearly posting a triple-double in a 74-67 win against Stony Brook University on Feb. 23. Abreu, who shared the honor with Boston University’s John Holland, netted 18 points, tied his career high with eight rebounds and set a career high with nine assists, before tallying 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting and adding two rebounds and an assist in 45 minutes of a 71-68 overtime loss to UMBC on Feb. 23.
      
Abreu also won the award Dec. 10, when he averaged 12.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in games against Northeastern University and Brown University, and Jan. 7 when he averaged 17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in games against the University at Albany and UMBC.

THREE PARTY

The Wildcats used the 3 to try and slay UMBC on Feb. 23. The ‘Cats were 16-of-41 (39 percent) from behind the arc, coming just one shy of the school record for 3-pointers made in a game, which was set Feb. 14, 2002 against Maine. The 41 attempts were a school record, breaking the 34 treys the ‘Cats hoisted up Feb. 11, 2006 at Hartford. Individually, junior guard Tyrece Gibbs was 6-of-14 from long range, tying the UNH record for attempts in a game.

ANOTHER MILESTONE FOR CHRISTENSEN

Senior forward Mike Christensen handed out his 200th career assist with his first helper at UMBC on Feb. 23. The captain recorded his 500th career rebound against Stony Brook on Feb. 20, and joined the 1,000-point club against Binghamton on Feb. 14.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR CAPTAIN CHRISTENSEN

Senior forward Mike Christensen posted his second double-double of the season Feb. 20 against Stony Brook when he poured in 18 points and tallied 12 rebounds. The captain’s first double-double of the season came Jan. 12 against Vermont when he netted 17 points and ripped down a career-high 14 rebounds.   
   
Freshman center Dane DiLiegro recorded the first double-double this season when he posted career-highs in points and rebounds, with 12 apiece, Dec. 3 versus Northeastern.

WE LIKE MIKE


How much does the play of senior captain Mike Christensen affect the play of the Wildcats? Eight of the Wildcats’ nine wins have come when Christensen has scored at least 10 points.

FAN FRENZY

The 1,853 fans that saw the Wildcats beat Vermont at Lundholm Gymnasium on Feb. 28, were one more than the 1,852 fans that took in the game between the Wildcats and Boston University on Feb. 2 at Lundholm. It was the highest number of fans to fill Lundholm since 1,873 people witnessed the ‘Cats play host to the University of Maine on Feb. 3, 2007.

ABREU BACK ON TRACK


Freshman guard Alvin Abreu looks to have righted the ship. After having his seven-game double-digit scoring streak —  the longest streak on the team this season — snapped Jan. 24 versus Binghamton, Abreu reeled off three consecutive games of 10 or more points. Abreu, who leads all America East Rookies in scoring, has scored in double digits in 15 of his last 22 games, and 20 of 28 overall.

BLOCK PARTY

After owning a career high of two blocks after two-and-a-half seasons, junior guard Tyrece Gibbs set a new career high with three blocks versus Boston University on Feb. 2, and then recorded another three blocks the very next game at Albany on Feb. 6.

FROM BEGINNING TO END

What connection could senior Mike Christensen and the head coach of the UNH men’s soccer team, Rob Thompson, possibly have? Before moving on to play his final two years of high school basketball at Flint Hill, Christensen played his first two years at South Lakes High School in Reston, Va. Thompson received his first coaching gig at South Lakes, coaching the JV soccer team. In the end, both wound up at UNH where they have had great careers. Another South Lakes alumn? The Phoenix Suns’ Grant Hill.

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN

Senior captain Mike Christensen has stepped up his game as of late, leading the Wildcats on the court when they need it most. After a scoreless first half against Hartford on Jan. 27, Christensen scored 18 points on 4-of-5 shooting from behind the arc in the second half to lead the ‘Cats to a 74-59 victory. Christensen again helped his squad pick up a W Jan. 30 at Stony Brook, netting 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while adding five rebounds, two assists and a block en route to a 68-60 win.

THERE'S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

When the Wildcats defeated two-time defending America East champion Albany, 75-66, on Jan. 3, they not only won their conference opener for the first time since Dec. 3, 1997 when they defeated Vermont, 75-68, but they grabbed their first win of the year when trailing at halftime, and when being outscored in the paint. Coming into the game, the ‘Cats were 0-6 in both categories.

'CATS INK PLAYER DURING EARLY SIGNING PERIOD

The Wildcats announced Wednesday, Nov. 14  that Brian Benson has signed a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period, and will attend UNH and play for the program beginning in the 2008-09 academic year.
   
Benson, a 6-foot-8-inch forward from Greece-Athena High School in Rochester, N.Y., was a 2007 All-Greater Rochester all-star selection after averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Section V Class AA champions.
   
Benson should help the ‘Cats in the frontcourt, with senior forward Mike Christensen graduating in the spring.
    
“We are happy with Brian’s decision to join our basketball program,” UNH men’s basketball Head Coach Bill Herrion said. “He comes from a very successful high school program and has been very well-coached. Brian really fits one of our recruiting needs. He is athletic, can run the floor and is a good rebounder. He also gives us depth with our frontcourt.”

2007-08 OUTLOOK

University of New Hampshire men’s basketball head coach Bill Herrion enters his third season as the leader of the program and with seven newcomers added to the program, this could be his most difficult challenge to date.  UNH compiled a 10-20 record last season, which translated into a seventh-place finish in the America East Conference. The Wildcats fell for a second straight season to the eventual America East champions - the University at Albany.
   
Despite losing two talented America East All-Conference performers in Blagoj Janev and Jermaine Anderson, the Wildcats bring back three starters from the 2006-07 campaign. Senior Mike Christensen (Reston, Va.), along with junior Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass.) and sophomore Radar Onguetou (Yaounde, Cameroon) look to lead a very young group of ‘Cats to the promise land as the captains for the 2007-08 season. Christensen returns from a season-ending foot injury, which he suffered Jan. 9 during a pivotal conference match up with Vermont. The senior forward posted 13.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in 15 appearances, including a 28-point performance the game before he endured the injury. Gibbs, who started 28 of 29 games last season, averaged 9.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He stepped his game up in a major way offensively when Christensen went down with his foot injury. Gibbs scored in double-digits in eight of the last 13 games. Onguetou showed the greatest improvement over the course of the season. He made 18 starts in 30 appearances and became the team’s leading offensive rebounder. Onguetou posted a double-double against Dartmouth College and scored a career-high 15 points against Hartford.
   
The Wildcats also bring back senior Shawn Tobey (Eliot, Maine). Tobey’s work ethic landed him in coach Herrion’s starting lineup towards the end of the season, including a start in the America East Quarterfinal round. Sophomore Joe Cheslock (Dover, N.H.) also returns to the program, and will vie for playing time at the shooting guard and small forward positions.
   
In addition to the returning veterans, Herrion introduces seven newcomers to the program. Junior college-transfer Eric Gilchrese (Springfield, Ill.) comes to New Hampshire after two years at Lewis & Clark Community College. The Trailblazers finished fourth in the 2007 NJCAA Men’s Division II National Tournament and had Gilchrese named to the All-Tournament Team. Gilchrese averaged 14.0 points, 4.0 rrebounds and 5.0 assists per game during the 2006-07 season. Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) and Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) add depth at the guard position. Conley is a 6-foot-2-inch wing player from Burlington High School. Conley is BHS’ all-time leading scorer with 1,566 points an was named to the All-State Team during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Conley averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game during his high school career. Abreu joins the Wildcats out of Boys to Men in Chicago. Abreu averaged 20 points and eight rebounds per game while at Lynn Classical High School, and was a North Eastern Conference All-Star. He averaged 14.0 points per game in 2006-07 at Boys to Men, which was ranked one of the top five schools in the nation that season.
   
In addition to the three guards, UNH adds forwards Rony Tchatchoua  (Douala, Cameroon), Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) and James Valladares (Kaufman, Texas). Tchatchoua is a 6-6 power forward from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, who was league MVP when his high school, Little Rock Christian Academy, captured the state championship in 2005. He was named to the All-State Team, as well as being selected a McDonald’s All-American in 2006. DiLiegro, a 6-8 power forward/center from Worcester Academy, was three-time Middlesex League Champion while at Lexington High School. DiLiegro was a Middlesex League All-Star his senior year after he averaged 11.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game. Valladares is a 6-8 forward out of Kaufman High School, where he averaged 19.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocks per game last season. Valladares was District MVP his senior year, District Defensive Player of the Year his junior year and District Newcomer of the Year his sophomore year when he was also named First Team All-Region. The Wildcats also welcome junior transfer Colbey Santos (East Wareham, Mass.) from James Madison University. Santos will sit out the 2007-08 season due to NCAA transfer regulations.
   
The Wildcats also made a coaching staff change as they welcomed newly appointed associate head coach Ken Dempsey to the program. Dempsey spent the last six seasons as the men’s basketball Associate Head Coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Dempsey also served as the University of North Carolina-Greensboro assistant coach from 1999-2001. Dempsey is familiar with the Northeast region, having served as the assistant coach at Northeastern University from 1994-1999. Prior to joining the staff at Northeastern, Dempsey was an assistant coach at Monmouth (N.J.) University from 1984-94. The players he recruited earned 21 all-conference selections and helped the team to three conference championship game appearances.
   
Dempsey is a proven, self-directed and high-profile coaching/recruiting professional with over 24 years of full-time leadership experience at the previous listed Division I institutions. Dempsey has a reputation as one of the top recruiters in the country by numerous national recruiting and coaching publications and boasts a 100-percent graduation rate among student-athletes recruited. Each of Dempsey’s past four recruiting classes at UMKC were ranked as one of the nation’s top 100 by Hoop Scoop Online.
   
As recruiting coordinator for head coach Wayne Szoke at Monmouth for eight seasons, Dempsey’s recruiting efforts produced the school’s all-time Division I scoring co-leaders, seven of the school’s top-10 Division I scoring leaders and a GTE Academic all-American. Dempsey also serves actively on the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Board of Directors.
       
Dempsey earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1983 from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., where he was a four-year letter-winner in basketball and baseball. He also completed a master’s degree in education from Monmouth in 1991.



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