DURHAM, N.H. - Juniors Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) and Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) scored 21 points apiece and sophomore Russell Graham (Norristown, Pa.) recorded a career-high 12 assists to propel the University of New Hampshire men's basketball team to a 75-56 victory against the University of Vermont on Wednesday night in America East action at Lundholm Gymnasium in front of 2,355 fans.
UNH improved to 7-1 at home - matching its best home start since the 1994-95 season - as well as 8-10 overall and 3-4 in America East with its second consecutive win - its first back-to-back wins of the season. UVM suffered its third straight defeat and fell to 14-8, 5-3. Coming into the game, Vermont's nine road victories were the most in the country, while its seven-game road-winning streak was also tops in the nation before dropping its last two contests.
Conley, UNH's America East Player of the Game, netted 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting from the floor, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, and 2-for-2 from the foul line. He also contributed a team-high seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. Abreu made all five of his 3-point attempts and was also 2-for-2 from the line en route to 21 points. He also pulled down five boards and added two assists. Graham, who committed just one turnover to 12 assists in a career-best 37 minutes, scored six points.
Marqus Blakely was named Vermont's America East Player of the Game with 17 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
It was the largest crowd for a UNH men's game at Lundholm Gym since Jan. 28, 2006, when 2,384 fans witnessed UVM defeat the Wildcats, 64-56.
UNH led 31-23 at the half and improved to 8-1 when ahead at the break this season. Maurice Joseph opened the second half with a 3-pointer and after Abreu answered with a trey of his own, Joseph came back with another 3 to slice the Wildcat lead to 34-29. After Abreu and Garvey Young traded baskets, Conley and Abreu knocked down consecutive triples to push the lead to 42-31 with 14:10 remaining.
After a Blakely three-point play later cut the Catamount deficit to eight, Graham and Conley hooked up on an alley-oop that sent the crowd wild and sparked a 12-5 UNH run. Graham led a 2-on-1 break down the left side of the court and tossed the ball to the far side of the hoop when Conley elevated, reached back and caught the ball with one hand before throwing it down.
An Abreu layup widened the lead to 12 and after Blakely and senior Radar Onguetou (Yaounde, Cameroon) traded buckets, Conley took another feed and finished off a one-handed slam to make it 54-40 with 6:09 to play. Vermont whittled the lead down to 11 before layups by junior Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) and Conley widened it to 15.
With 3:16 to go, another Conley 3 opened the lead up to 16 at 63-47 before Abreu added the exclamation point - a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left that gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game and closed the scoring at 75-56.
UNH outscored Vermont, 44-33, in the second half and also outrebounded the Catamounts, 36-27, including, 28-12, in the second stanza.
Onguetou scored seven points on 3 of 4 shooting, added four rebounds and played great defense on Blakely as he helped force him into eight turnovers. DiLiegro, meanwhile, posted six points and seven boards.
The Wildcats trailed 8-2 to start the game before consecutive 3s by Abreu, and another trey from classmate James Valladares (Kaufman, Texas), fueled a 9-0 run that gave them an 11-8 lead with 13:09 to play in the opening half. Vermont scored six straight and lead by three before Graham was driven to the ground while he made a layup, and finished off the three-point play at the line to tie the game at 14 with 8:43 remaining.
The game was tied at 16 when an 11-1 run - highlighted by 3-pointers from Conley, Onguetou and freshman Ferg Myrick (Philadelphia, Pa.) - busted the game open and gave UNH a 29-19 lead at 1:59 that they would hold for good. Back-to-back baskets from Joseph and Blakely cut the deficit to six, but Conley drained a jumper from 18 feet with five seconds left to send his team into the locker room with a 31-23 lead.
Valladares tallied five points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal, while also doing a good job defensively on Blakely. Myrick gave the Wildcats another good lift off the bench with nine points, four boards and a steal in 16 minutes.
The Wildcats outshot Vermont, 44.8 percent (26-58) to 41.3 percent (19-46), from the floor, including 61.1 percent (11-18) to 27.3 percent (3-11) from behind the arc. UNH also held Vermont, who owns the second best offense in the league, to its second lowest point total of the season. Only Delaware held the Catamounts to fewer points this season when it scored a 56-50 decision at Vermont on Dec. 20.
Evan Fjeld and Joseph scored 13 and 10, respectively, for Vermont.
New Hampshire returns to action Jan. 30 (7 p.m.) when it takes on Binghamton University at the Events Center. The Wildcats' next home game is Feb. 6 against the University of Hartford. Game time at Lundholm Gym is 4 p.m.