VESTAL, N.Y. – Senior forward Mike Christensen (Reston, Va.) posted his third double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman guard Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) added 16 points and five rebounds, but the seventh-seeded University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team ended its season Saturday night, falling to the second-seeded University of Hartford, 68-65 in the quarterfinal game of the America East tournament at Binghamton University’s Events Center.
The loss wraps up the Wildcats’ record at 9-20, including 6-10 in America East, while the Hawks improve to 17-15 overall with a 10-6 conference record and move on to Sunday’s semifinal round. The ‘Cats fall to 7-26 all-time in the tournament, including 1-3 against the Hawks. Head Coach Bill Herrion, whose 19 wins make him the all-time winningest coach in America East Championship history, loses to Hartford for the first time in the five games he has faced the Hawks in the tournament.
The Wildcats trailed by six, 62-56, with 2:44 remaining in the game when they flashed the never-say-die attitude they have shown all season long. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Abreu and junior guard Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass.) tied the game for the fourth time with 1:18 left. Joe Zeglinski’s jumper fell as he fell to the ground to put Hartford up 64-62 with 54 seconds left, before Gibbs was fouled going to the hoop. Gibbs missed both, followed by a pair of Morgan Sabia free throws that gave the Hawks a four-point advantage that looked to put the ‘Cats away with 30 seconds on the clock.
UNH would not go away, however, receiving another Gibbs 3 that cut Hartford’s lead to 66-65 with 19 seconds left. The Wildcats were forced to foul and sent Jaret Von Rosenberg to the line, where he would hit both to put Hartford up by 3 with 17 seconds left.
With six ticks left, Christensen fired a deep 3 that hit the front of the rim, but caromed straight to a wide open Gibbs on the elbow. His 3 ball hit the back rim, but was tipped by freshman center Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) out to junior guard Eric Gilchrese (Springfield, Ill.), who got off one final shot as he was hammered with a second on the clock. The shot did not fall and no call was made, ending UNH’s tough, gritty season.
Christensen ended his time at UNH the way you would want to close out a career. The senior captain made big play after big play, adding six assists, a steal and two huge blocks on the defensive end. Five of his 11 boards came on the offensive end of the floor. Christensen, who winds up 17th on UNH’s all-time scoring list, ends his career with 1,087 points, 522 rebounds and 213 assists, only the second Wildcat to amass at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in a career.
UNH had its largest lead of the game, 14-8, just over eight minutes into the game. The Wildcats led 18-13 when a 9-0 Hartford run gave the Hawks a 22-18 lead with 5:30 left in the first half. A Gibbs trey cut the lead to one, and the teams went into the locker room with Hartford leading 32-31.
With the game tied at 42, Hartford reeled off a 13-2 run that gave it an 11-point lead with 9:17 to go. UNH did not quit as Abreu scored seven straight points on three huge shots to make it 55-51 with just under eight minutes to play. Hartford pushed its lead back to eight, setting the stage for UNH’s final stand.
DiLiegro ripped down a game-high 12 rebounds, trying his career high. Gibbs, who was in foul trouble most of the night, netted 12 points on four giant 3s, and added four rebounds and four assists.
Zeglinski led four Hartford scorers in double digits with 22 points and also tallied 11 rebounds. Warren McLendon also posted a double-double for Hartford with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
UNH won the battle on the glass, outrebounding Hartford, 39-31. The Hawks shot 46 percent (22-48) to the Wildcats’ 39 percent (23-59) and turned the ball over three fewer times (8) than the ‘Cats (11).
This also marked the final game for senior forward Shawn Tobey (Eliot, Maine).