BURLINGTON, Vt. - Junior Alvin Abreu (Lynn, Mass.) matched his season high with 25 points, including 20 in the second half and overtime combined, but the University of New Hampshire men's basketball team suffered an 85-76 overtime defeat at the University of Vermont on Sunday afternoon at Patrick Gymnasium.
The Wildcats fall to 10-14 on the season, including 5-8 in America East play, while the Catamounts improve to 19-8 and 10-3 in the conference.
Abreu, UNH's America East Player of the Game, was 9-for-22 from the field and 7-for-9 at the line to go along with four assists and three rebounds in a season-high 42 minutes. Freshman Chandler Rhoads (Berryville, Va.) netted a career-best 16 points on 5 of 10 shooting and added a career-high eight rebounds, two steals and an assist in a career-best 30 minutes. Classmate Ferg Myrick (Philadelphia, Pa.) added 11 points on 5 of 9 shooting and had three rebounds in 22 minutes, which are the highest of his career. Junior Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) was 4-for-6 from the floor as he recorded 10 points and eight boards.
Evan Fjeld, Vermont's America East Player of the Game, led the Catamounts with 22 points on 7 of 10 shooting. Fjeld made all eight of his free throws and tallied nine rebounds, four blocks, two steals and an assist. Marqus Blakely tallied 22 points, eight boards and three assists, while Maurice Joseph scored 16 points.
UNH trailed by 12, 62-50, with 4:26 to play in regulation when a 14-2 surge tied the game and sent it to an extra session. Rhoads knocked down a jumper to cut it to 10 and then followed a Joseph free throw with a three-point play that cut it to eight, 63-55, with 3:47 to go. Abreu sank a jumper to slice the deficit to six and then added two free throws after Joseph sank 1 of 2 at the line to bring the score to 64-59 at 2:24.
DiLiegro then scored the final five points of the half in a span of 1:37 to force overtime. After he sank 1 of 2 at the line and the Wildcats made a defensive stop, DiLiegro reeled in a loose ball and layed it up and in to make it 64-62 with 1:21 on the clock. After another stop, Abreu found DiLiegro down low for a layup that tied the game with 37 seconds remaining. The Wildcats then forced two misses at the other end to send the game to overtime.
Over the final 4:49 that spanned the run, the UNH defense forced Vermont to go 0-for-4 for the field and turn the ball over three times. The Catamounts went 2-for-5 at the line and committed an offensive foul during the stretch.
After the Wildcats won the overtime tip, Abreu opened the scoring with a jumper 19 seconds in that gave UNH its first lead since it was up 2-1 just 1:36 into the contest. Joseph answered with a layup inside and after Rhoads found sophomore Brian Benson (Rochester, N.Y.) for a two-handed slam, Fjeld hit a basket inside to tie the game at 68 with 3:33 remaining.
Abreu then sank another jumper to give the Wildcats their third lead of overtime and fourth of the game, but a Blakely three-point play on the other end at 2:57 put Vermont up for good, 71-70. Blakely's layup made it 73-70 before Abreu sank a pair at the line to cut it back to one with 1:42 left. Brendan Bald made two free throws to push the lead back to three and after a defensive stop, Joseph found Blakely for an alley-oop dunk that made it 77-72 with 1:15 on the clock. The Catamounts then made 6 of 8 at the line the rest of the way and closed the scoring with another Blakely dunk with three seconds remaining.
Vermont started the game on a 9-2 run and led by eight, 16-8, with 12:05 left in the opening half when a pair of Rhoads free throws and a layup by junior Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) sliced it to four at 10:29. The two teams went back and forth the rest of the half, with the Catamounts leading 31-26 with eight seconds left when Myrick buried a 3 to send the Wildcats into the locker room down two.
The Catamounts scored the first four of the second half before layups by Rhoads and Abreu brought UNH back to within 35-33 at 17:07. Fjeld and Abreu then traded jumpers and after Nick Vier made 1 of 2 at the line, a DiLiegro dunk cut it to 38-37 at 15:49. Following two Blakely free throws, Abreu sank a jumper at 14:23 to again slice the deficit to one, but a 17-6 run, sparked by a Joey Accaoui 3-pointer, gave Vermont its largest lead of the game at 57-45 with 8:31 left in the second half.
Conley halted the run with a big 3 from the top of the key at 6:30, but with his team still up nine, Joseph buried a 3 from the right wing that pushed the lead back to 12 at 62-50 with 4:50 remaining and set up the Wildcats' furious comeback.
Conley finished with seven points and eight rebounds in his homecoming.
Despite being outshot 41.2 percent (21-51) to 39.1 percent (27-69), the Wildcats outrebounded Vermont, 45-42, including 19-12 on the offensive glass, which led to a 19-9 edge in second-chance points. They also outscored the Catamounts in the paint, 38-30, held a 33-12 advantage in bench scoring and turned the ball over three fewer times, but Vermont scored 40 points at the free throw line after getting to the stripe a whopping 55 times (72.7 percent).
The Wildcats return to action Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. when they play host to the University of Maine as they White Out Lundholm Gymnasium live on Comcast SportsNet.