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DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire men's basketball team will open 2009 when it plays host to Santa Clara University on Sunday, Jan. 4 at 1 p.m. at Lundholm Gymnasium. The game will be broadcast live on Yahoo! Radio, with the link available at www.UNHWildcats.com. The meeting will be the first for the Wildcats and Broncos. Ten minutes following the conclusion of the game, the Wildcats will host an autograph session in the main lobby of the Field House.

LAST TIME OUT

Sophomore forward Rony Tchatchoua tied his career high with 17 points and sophomore center Dane DiLiegro registered his first double-double of the season, but the Wildcats fell to Hofstra University, 62-57, Dec. 27 at Lundholm Gymnasium.   

With the loss, the Wildcats fell to 3-7 on the season, while the Pride improved to 8-3.   

Tchatchoua, the America East Player of the Game, was a perfect 6 of 6 from the field and added four rebounds, while DiLiegro recorded 10 points and 11 rebounds for the second double-double of his career.      

Trailing 51-49 with 5:50 to go in the game, the Wildcats tied it up on DiLiegro’s put-back dunk off a missed layup. Hofstra moved back in front by two on Charles Jenkins’ jumper, but DiLiegro answered with another monster dunk to tie the game at 53 with 4:38 left. DiLiegro moved the Wildcats in front by two with a pair of free throws at the four-minute mark before a pair of Hofstra free throws knotted the game at 55.     

Two more free throws from sophomore guard Tyrone Conley gave UNH its two-point cushion back before the Pride cut it in half with a free throw. A Hofstra jumper with 2:31 remaining put the Pride in front, 58-57. That would be the last bucket of the game for either side, as Hofstra closed the scoring with four free throws.   

After a slow start that saw Hofstra begin the game on a 17-1 run, including 14 unanswered points, the Wildcats used a 15-1 run – sparked by an Alvin Abreu 3-pointer from the left wing at 11:37 – to climb back into the game. The remainder of the half was a back-and-forth affair that ended with Hofstra leading 30-24. Freshman forward Brian Benson would provide the late spark for the Wildcats as he scored all five of his first-half points in the final two minutes of play, including his first career 3-pointer. Benson finished with a career-high seven points.   

The Wildcats came out in the second half torching the nets as they went on a 16-4 run out of the gate in the first seven minutes of play. A 3-pointer by junior guard Colbey Santos, with 12:48 left, capped the run and gave UNH its largest lead of the game at 40-34. The Wildcats led 47-43 with just under nine minutes left when Hofstra used an 8-2 run to grab a 51-49 lead with 6:08 left in the game.   

Senior guard Tyrece Gibbs tallied eight points, six rebounds and two assists, while reaching a handful of milestones. Gibbs also recorded a career-high four steals and tied a career high with three blocks. Gibbs posted his 200th career assist and also moved into ninth place on UNH’s all-time blocks list with 45 to become just the fourth Wildcat in history to amass 1,000 points, 200 assists and 45 blocks. Gibbs, who finished with 1,020 points, moved past Marcus Bullock (1,015) and Eric Thielen (1,019) for 22nd on UNH’s all-time scoring list. The co-captain also moved into a third-place tie with Blagoj Janev on UNH’s all-time 3-point field goals made list (172) with his lone trey of the game.     

The Wildcats were outshot 35 percent (18-52) to 34 percent (20-59), but outscored Hofstra in the paint, 24-14.

The Pride were led by Greg Washington, who tallied 13 points and seven rebounds. Charles Jenkins also contributed by adding 12 points.

MULTIPLE MILESTONES

Tyrece Gibbs reached a pair of career highs and a handful of milestones against Hofstra on Dec. 27. Gibbs recorded a career-high four steals and and also matched his career high with three blocks, which moved him into ninth place  on UNH’s all-time blocks list with 45. Gibbs posted the 200th assist of his career, becoming just the fourth Wildcat in history to amass 1,000 points, 200 assists and 45 blocks. The co-captain also moved into a third-place tie with Blagoj Janev on UNH’s all-time 3-point field goals made list (172) with his lone trey of the game. Gibbs, who finished the game with 1,020 points, moved past Marcus Bullock (1,015) and Eric Thielen (1,019) for 22nd on UNH’s all-time scoring list.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR DOUBLE D

Dane DiLiegro notched his second career double-double versus Hofstra on Dec. 27 when he poured in 10 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. The center is now averaging 5.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, better than his numbers of 4.8 points and 5.4 boards per contest at this point last season.

PLAYING WITH PRIDE

Brian Benson knocked down his first career 3-pointer en route to recording a career-high seven points against Hofstra on Dec. 27.

GRAND THREE-PEAT

Tyrece Gibbs became the 26th Wildcat in program history to score 1,000 points in a career when he knocked down a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in the game against Long Island on Dec. 13. This marks the third straight season the Wildcats have seen one of their players reach the 1,000-point plateau. Blagoj Janev, who is currently fourth on UNH’s all-time scoring list with 1,340 points, recorded his 1,000th during the 2006-07 season, while Mike Christensen, 17th with 1,087 points, tallied his 1,000th last season.

BENCHWARMER? ABREU HEATING UP OFF THE PINE

In Alvin Abreu‘s three starts this season, the guard is averaging 9.7 points per game. In seven games coming off the bench, Abreu is averaging 12.7 ppg, including 14.2 ppg in his six most recent games off the pine.

TY-RRIFIC

Tyrece Gibbs is penciling his name in all over UNH’s record books. Last season, Gibbs drained 83 3-pointers, which is the second most in a single UNH season and just four off the record. Gibbs also registered the third most 3-point attempts (204) in a season and played the third most minutes (1,038) in a season. The guard is currently third all-time on UNH’s 3-pointers made list (172), fifth in 3-point attempts (431), fifth in 3-point field goal percentage (.399) and ninth in blocks (45). Gibbs, who became the 26th Wildcat to score 1,000 points in a career Dec. 13 at Long Island, is also close to moving into the top 10 in field goals made, field goals attempted, assists, games played and total minutes.

TREY-MENDOUS STREAK FOR 'CATS

Heading into today’s contest UNH has recorded at least one 3-pointer in 502 consecutive games, a streak that spans 17 years. The last time the ‘Cats did not tally 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. The NCAA record is currently 681 games by UNLV, a streak that started Nov. 26, 1986 and is still active.

NEW 3-POINT THREAT FOR WILDCATS?

Radar Onguetou might be spending a little too much time with Tyrece Gibbs and the rest of the Wildcats’ dangerous perimeter shooters. After sinking a total of three 3-pointers in his career, Onguetou has knocked down a career-high two in three of his last four games. The powerful forward was 2-for-4 from behind the arc Dec. 3 at Colgate, 2-for-3 Dec. 6 versus Brown and 2-for-3 Dec. 13 at Long Island. Onguetou is hitting them in the clutch as well, tying the game at 51 with 7:18 to go against Brown and then giving UNH a 62-58 lead with 1:36 left.

GOLDEN GRAHAM

Russell Graham, making his third consecutive start at the point, put together a career night against powerhouse Rhode Island, setting personal bests in points (9), assists (5), steals (2), free throws made (3) and minutes (29).

POWERFUL RAMS

Rhode Island is the highest RPI-ranked team the Wildcats have played this season at 37th. The Rams have also played some opponents that are on UNH’s schedule, including Penn State (W 77-72), Brown (W 76-74) and Hartford (W 94-72). The Wildcats, who are ranked 197th out of 343 teams in the rankings, a big improvement thus far over last year’s finish of 300 out of 341, lost to Penn State, 70-50, beat Brown, 64-61, and will meet Hartford twice in conference play.

'CATS "BEAR" DOWN AGAINST BROWN

UNH’s 64-61 win versus Brown on Dec. 6 was the Wildcats’ first win in five tries against the Bears. UNH’s most recent win before that came in a 77-71 victory at Lundholm on Nov. 14, 1998.

BREAKING THE ICE

Not only was UNH’s win against Colgate on Dec. 3 its first victory versus a Division I team this season, but it also marked a first in numerous other categories, including its first win on the road, in December, on a Wednesday, in a night game, against a team under .500, when its opponent scores first, in a game decided by less than six points, when outscored in the paint and off the bench, when outrebounded and when committing more turnovers than its opponent.

JUST BE YOURSELF

In their win against Colgate on Dec. 3, the Wildcats finally looked like the same team from last year that was seventh in the country in 3-pointers per game (9.5) and 81st in 3-point field goal percentage (37.2). The ‘Cats shot 50 percent (12-24) from behind the arc against Colgate and were shooting it so well in the first half that seven of their eight field goals in that frame were 3s.

DOING A LOT WITH A LITTLE

Although Rony Tchatchoua only recorded one point and four rebounds in UNH’s win at Colgate on Dec. 3, he may have had the biggest point and rebound of the game. With the Wildcats up by two with 13 seconds remaining, Colgate’s Mike Venezia took a 3-pointer to try and put his team in front, but he missed and Tchatchoua ripped down the rebound in a sea of Colgate players. Tchatchoua then went to the line and hit one of two to force Colgate to drain a 3 just to tie. Venezia’s attempt went long as time expired, making Tchatchoua’s effort stand up.

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

Alvin Abreu broke out for the first time this season Nov. 29 at Marist, scoring a UNH season-high 22 points  – one shy of his career high – on 7 of 14 shooting. Abreu, who netted 17 of his points in the second half to lead the UNH comeback, hit a career-high seven free throws and was 6 of 7 from the stripe down the stretch.

COMEBACK KIDS

Although they wound up losing to Marist, 63-61, Nov. 29, the Wildcats fought hard the final 12 minutes to claw their way back into the game. UNH trailed by 19 – 54-35 – with 12:21 to play, but ripped off a 17-2 run to pull within 56-52 with 4:24 on the clock. Eight points from Alvin Abreu, six from Dane DiLiegro and a 3-pointer from Russell Graham, combined with stifling defense that held Marist without a bucket for 8:51, powered the run. An Abreu trey with four seconds left put the Wildcats down 62-61, but that was close as they would get.

TACKLING THE TOP COMPETITION

Head coach Bill Herrion is not afraid to take on some of the toughest competition in the country. Since his arrival in Durham prior to the 2005-06 season, the Wildcats have taken on Big East foes UConn, Providence and Rutgers, as well as ACC power Boston College on two occassions. This season, UNH continues down that road with matchups against Big Ten member Penn State and Atlantic 10 foes Rhode Island and Fordham. The Wildcats also faced URI last season when the A10 was ranked the seventh-best conference in the nation; the Big Ten was sixth.

HANGIN' TOUGH

UNH held the lead against Penn State for the greatest length of time of any of the Nittany Lions’ first four opponents of the season. The Wildcats led for 12:25 in their game with PSU, which won all four games. UNH’s America East-foe Hartford held the advantage for just 1:18, NJIT led for 26 seconds and William & Mary never led in their contest.

MAKE THE MOST WITH WHAT YOU'RE GIVEN

Abby Kabba received his first dose of major playing time against Penn State on Nov. 23 as he played a career-high 26 minutes. Kabba made the most of the playing time as he ripped down a team- and career-high seven rebounds, while also chipping in offensively with two points. Kabba then added a career-high five points Nov. 29 at Marist. In the two games prior, Kabba had solid production for the time he played as he notched seven points and five rebounds in 14 minutes of action.

CONLEY HAS HIS OWN NUMBER

Tyrone Conley scored 21 points versus Harvard on Nov. 19, matching his jersey number. The 21 points tied the season high for a Wildcat this year, and was one point shy of Conley’s personal best.

HITTING THE CENTURY MARK

In their 101-50 win versus Suffolk on Nov. 16, the Wildcats won their second straight home-opener by scoring 100 points for the first time since a 106-103 win at Maine in four overtimes Jan. 19, 1996. The last time UNH compiled at least 100 points in regulation was Nov. 27, 1994 in a 104-97 win at Hofstra. The most recent time a Lundholm crowd witnessed a 100-point game from the Wildcats was in a 113-111 overtime win against Delaware on Feb. 26, 1995. The last time the Wildcats scored 100 points in regulation at Lundholm? You would have to go back to Dec. 29, 1983 in a 102-82 win over Fairfield. The 51-point margin of victory is also the largest for the ‘Cats since the 1941-42 season – and possibly ever. Records prior to that season are incomplete. UNH set the previous mark last season in a 95-46 win versus Suffolk.

GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT

The Wildcats won their first season-opener since the 2004-05 season when they beat Suffolk, 101-50, to open up the 2008-09 campaign Nov. 16. It was UNH’s second straight home-opening win.

ABREU ONE OF TOP FRESHMEN LAST SEASON

At the end of last season, Alvin Abreu was named a CollegeHoops.net Honorable Mention Mid-Major All-Freshman. Abreu, who was a three-time America East Rookie of the Week during the season (Dec. 10, Jan. 7, Feb. 25), was also named to the America East All-Rookie Team before the start of the tournament.   

Abreu, who was one of just two freshman, and four players overall, to play in all 29 games for the Wildcats, led all America East rookies and was second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg). He also led the team in free throw percentage (.818), was second in 3-pointers made (62) and was fourth in rebounding (3.8 rpg) and assists (1.8 apg). The 62 treys are tied for the eighth most in a single season at UNH, while the free throw percentage of 81.8 is the 10th-best single-season mark in school history.

THREE FOR ALL

Tyrece Gibbs, Alvin Abreu and Tyrone Conley all took home conference hardware at the annual America East banquet last season. Gibbs was named to the America East All-Conference Third Team, while Abreu and Conley were chosen for the All-Rookie Team. UNH was the only team with two of its players to garner spots on the five-member All-Rookie Team.

BENSON'S FAMOUS TEAMMATE

Brian Benson was on the court as a sophomore at Greece-Althena High School when team manager Jason “J-Mac” McElwain, who was diagnosed with autism at an early age, knocked down six 3-pointers in their division title game versus Spencerport on Feb. 16, 2006. The story quickly made national headlines, while McElwain turned into a celebrity overnight. McElwain met President Bush and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, and also appeared on various talk shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, and Today. McElwain even won an ESPY Award for the Best Moment in Sports in 2006.

DILIEGRO TO REPRESENT COUNTRY, RELIGION

In September, Dane DiLiegro was named one of 12 members of the United States men’s basketball team that will compete at the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel from July 12-23, 2009. The announcement was made by the head coach of the U.S. men’s basketball Maccabiah team, Bruce Pearl, who is also the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Tennessee.      

The Maccabiah Games, also referred to as the “Jewish Olympics,” are held in Israel every four years and include the top Jewish athletes from around the world. The 17th games in 2005 attracted the largest Maccabiah attendance in history. With over 50 countries represented by 7,700 athletes, including 900 from the U.S., the Maccabiah Games became the third largest sporting event in the world. This year, the U.S. is looking to take over 1,000 athletes, including Olympic athletes such as swimmers Dara Torres and Jason Lezak.   

DiLiegro becomes the sixth UNH athlete to participate in the Maccabiah Games, including the first basketball player.   

DiLiegro joins Duke’s Jon Scheyer and Arizona State’s Derek Glasser on the team, which won gold in 2001 and bronze at the previous Games in 2005. By making the U.S. squad, DiLiegro joins some elite company, including Dolph Schayes, one of the 50 Greatest NBA players of all-time, Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown, and Mark Spitz, who won a then-record seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, an achievement surpassed only when Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal of the 2008 Olympics.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

The Wildcats welcome in five newcomers this season, including a pair who have been around the program before this year. Junior Colbey Santos is eligible to play after sitting out last season following his transfer from James Madison University. The 6-foot-5-inch Santos will provide another athletic body and a deadly shooting ability to aid the Wildcats’ offensive attack. Freshman Ryan Herrion, the son of head coach Bill Herrion, played at Dover (N.H.) High School where he averaged 25.0 points and 5.0 assists per game last season en route to being named the Foster’s Daily Democrat Dream Team Player of the Year. Herrion, a 6-0, 165-pound walk-on, will add depth on the perimeter for the Wildcats.   

Freshmen Russell Graham, a 6-0, 185-pound guard, also joins the Wildcat back court. Graham is a tough, heady point guard and a solid defender who comes from a very successful high school program. Graham played at Norristown (Pa.) High School, where he averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists during his career. The Eagles finished 32-2 last season after an undefeated regular season in which Graham was named League Player of the Year, Times Herald Co-Player of the Year and First Team All-Area.    

The Wildcats also add Abby Kabba and Brian Benson to the mix in the front court. Kabba, a 6-6, 210-pound junior, is a quick, jack-of-all-trades type player; a good rebounder and solid defender. Kabba played his first two seasons at Northern Oklahoma, a junior college, where he averaged 6.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game last season. The 6-8, 190-pound Benson played at Greece-Althena High School, where he holds the record for most offensive rebounds in a season. Benson, a long and athletic freshman who is a very good rebounder and shot blocker, averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season en route to being named Monroe County Division II Player of the Year and an All-Greater Rochester First Team member.

2008-09 OUTLOOK

University of New Hampshire men’s basketball head coach Bill Herrion enters his fourth season at the helm with what is the most quality depth the program has possessed during his tenure. With eight letterwinners – including four starters – returning, combined with five impact newcomers, the Wildcats should be much improved and in contention for their first America East title.

Despite losing 1,000-point scorer Mike Christensen and hard-working walk-on Shawn Tobey, the Wildcats bring back nearly their entire roster, led by senior guard Tyrece Gibbs (Brockton, Mass.) and junior forward Radar Onguetou (Yaounde, Cameroon). Gibbs was a workhorse for the Wildcats last season, playing in all 29 games while averaging a team-best 35.8 minutes per contest. The America East All-Conference Third Team honoree did it all in 2007-08, leading the squad in scoring (14.4 ppg), 3-point field goal percentage (.407), assists (3.1 apg) and blocks (0.62 bpg). Onguetou returns at full strength this season after being limited to just four games last year due to a knee injury. A naturally gifted rebounder who averaged nearly five boards per game in the four contests he appeared in, Onguetou will bring much-needed leadership and toughness back into the Wildcat frontcourt.

Gibbs will be joined in the backcourt by fellow senior Eric Gilchrese (Springfield, Ill.). Last season – his first with the Wildcats – the point guard poured in 10.2 points per game while leading the team in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.48) and steals (1.54 spg). Gilchrese showed his toughness as well, playing 28-of-29 games despite dealing with an injury down the stretch. Also returning are sophomore guards and 2008 America East All-Rookie Team members Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) and Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.). Abreu, who was also selected as a CollegeHoops.net Honorable Mention Mid-Major All-Freshman, led all America East rookies and was second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg). Abreu played in all 29 contests while splitting time between the one- and two-guard spots for the Wildcats. Conley showed off his athleticism and leaping ability while averaging 8.8 points per game last season. Conley appeared in 27 games despite battling illness for nearly a month. The Wildcats also have 6-foot-5-inch Colbey Santos (Onset, Mass.) eligible to play after sitting out last season following his transfer from James Madison University. Santos will provide another athletic body and a deadly shooting ability to aid the Wildcats’ offensive attack. The program also welcomes two other newcomers into the backcourt in freshmen Russell Graham (Norristown, Pa.) and Ryan Herrion (Dover, N.H.). The 6-0, 185-pound Graham is a tough, heady point guard and a solid defender who comes from a very successful high school program. Graham played at Norristown (Pa.) High School, where he averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists during his career. The Eagles finished 32-2 last season after an undefeated regular season in which Graham was named League Player of the Year, Times Herald Co-Player of the Year and First Team All-Area. Herrion, the son of head coach Bill Herrion, played at Dover (N.H.) High School where he averaged 25.0 points and 5.0 assists per game last season en route to being named the Foster’s Daily Democrat Dream Team Player of the Year. Herrion, a 6-0, 165-pound walk-on, will add depth on the perimeter for the Wildcats.

The UNH frontcourt will once again be anchored in the middle by sophomore center Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.). DiLiegro played in all 29 contests last season, while leading all America East rookies and the team in rebounding (6.3 rpg). The big man recorded six double-digit rebound games, including his first career double-double. Sophomores Rony Tchatchoua (Douala, Cameroon) and James Valladares (Kaufman, Texas) also return to provide big bodies and quality depth in the frontcourt. Tchatchoua played in 23 games while averaging 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game off the bench. Valladares, who added muscle and improved his game during the offseason, saw action in 26 games, providing a valuable 9.6 minutes per game off the bench while backing up DiLiegro at center. The Wildcats also add newcomers Abby Kabba (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Brian Benson (Rochester, N.Y.) to the mix. Kabba, a 6-6, 210-pound junior, is a quick, jack-of-all-trades type player; a good rebounder and solid defender. Kabba played his first two seasons at Northern Oklahoma, a junior college, where he averaged 6.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game last season. The 6-9, 205-pound Benson played at Greece-Athena High School, where he holds the record for most offensive rebounds in a season. Benson, a long and athletic freshman who is a very good rebounder and shot blocker, averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season en route to being named Monroe County Division II Player of the Year and an All-Greater Rochester First Team member.

With greater depth, a solid nucleus and a group of talented athletes, the 2008-09 Wildcats should be in the mix for the America East title.

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