DURHAM, N.H. – Sophomore center Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) recorded his fourth double-double of the season to lead the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team to a 63-54 come-from-behind win against the University of Maine on Thursday night in front of 2,214 fans at Lundholm Gymnasium.
The Wildcats, who have won two straight, improve to 11-14 on the season, including 6-7 in America East play and move into fifth place in the standings. The Black Bears fall to 9-17 overall and 4-9 in the conference. UNH, which last beat Maine on its home floor in a 74-64 victory Jan. 8, 2003, defeats the Black Bears for the first time in its last six tries in front of the largest Lundholm crowd since 2,384 fans saw the ‘Cats lose 64-56 to the University of Vermont on Jan. 28, 2006.
DiLiegro, UNH’s America East Player of the Game, poured in a career-high 21 points on 10 of 14 shooting and tore down 12 rebounds. DiLiegro did a lot of dirty work in 35 minutes, pulling down six offensive rebounds and taking a handful of charges.
Trailing 48-38 with 8:51 to go in the game after a 9-0 Maine run, the Wildcats ripped off an 18-0 run that spanned 7:49 and gave them a 56-48 lead with 1:46 to play. Sophomore guard Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) sparked the run with a 3-pointer and cut the deficit to one with a layup and a jumper after a pair of free throws from senior guard Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass.). DiLiegro gave UNH the lead for good – 49-48 with 5:59 to play – with a layup, and then handed his team some breathing room with an emphatic dunk. A 3-pointer by Gibbs and another DiLiegro layup capped with run with the Wildcats up eight.
A 3-pointer by Andrew Rogers with 1:02 remaining sliced the lead to 56-51, but that was as close as Maine would get. The Black Bears sent sophomore guard Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) to the line, where he hit a pair to push the lead to seven. Mark Socoby and Gibbs traded free throws before a Gerald McLemore layup with 36 seconds left cut the lead to 59-54. Abreu followed with a pair of free throws and then DiLiegro fittingly capped the night with a two-handed slam – his fourth dunk of the contest – that gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the night at nine.
Abreu scored 13 points, including nine in the second half, on 5 of 11 shooting to go along with three rebounds, two assists and six steals. The six thefts are tied for the most in the America East this season with Binghamton University’s D.J. Rivera, who also had six swipes against Vermont on Jan. 8. Gibbs added 11 points, two rebounds and three assists.
The two teams went back and forth to start the game, with neither squad leading by more than two until a jumper by junior forward Radar Onguetou (Yaounde, Cameroon) put the Wildcats up 21-17 at 6:21. Maine then scored six straight to take a two-point lead before DiLiegro tied it with a layup at 4:09. A Kaimondre Owes layup just 19 seconds later put Maine back on top 25-23, but a 9-0 run – sparked by a 3-pointer from senior guard Eric Gilchrese (Springfield, Ill.) and capped with a DiLiegro dunk – gave UNH a 32-25 lead with 1:34 remaining in the half. Consecutive buckets, including a Sean McNally layup with two ticks left, cut the deficit to 32-29 at the half. UNH improves to 8-1 when leading at halftime.
Gilchrese tallied five points, two rebounds and two assists. Sophomore forward Rony Tchatchoua (Douala, Cameroon) gave UNH a solid 28 minutes off the bench, which tied a career high, while tallying tallying four points, five boards, a block and altering numerous other shots.
Gibbs finished the night with 1,232 points and moved past Billy Pappas (1,228) for eighth place on UNH’s all-time scoring list.
UNH was narrowly outshot by Maine, 45 percent (21-47) to 43 percent (24-56), but won the battle on the glass, 33-31, and turned the ball over six fewer times (10) than the Black Bears (16). The Wildcats improve to 10-2 when holding their opponents to 60 points or less.
McLemore, Maine’s America East Player of the Game, led the Black Bears with 15 points.
The Wildcats return to action Sunday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. when they travel to take on Binghamton at the Events Center.