STORRS, Conn. – Sophomore Ferg Myrick (Philadelphia, Pa.) poured in a season-high 19 points, including 16 in the second half, as the University of New Hampshire men's basketball team pushed the seventh-ranked University of Connecticut to the brink, but came up short, 62-55, Tuesday evening at Gampel Pavilion.
The Wildcats, who held UConn to its lowest scoring output of the season, drop to 4-1. UNH, which never trailed in the first half, led at the 14:08 mark in the second half and trailed by just one with 8:24 to play in the contest. Despite the scare from UNH, the Huskies, who jumped to No. 7 in the latest poll after winning the Maui Invitational last week, remain perfect on the year at 6-0.
UConn, which went to the free throw line 20 more times than the Wildcats, entered the contest averaging 81.0 points per game and had not scored fewer than 70 in any game all season. UNH's seven-point margin of defeat was the smallest of any of the America East schools the Huskies have played this season (Vermont – 16, Stony Brook – 27).
UNH lost despite converting three more field goals, including five more 3-pointers, than the Huskies. The Wildcats also held a 39-38 edge in the rebounding department, including 18-12 on the offensive glass, and turned the ball over just 13 times, while forcing 12 UConn turnovers.
Myrick, the America East Player of the Game, was 7-for-17 from the field, including 6-for-9 in the second half. Myrick was also 3-for-4 from deep and 2 of 3 at the line, while matching his career best with eight rebounds and setting a new career high with four steals. Myrick has now scored in double figures all six games to begin the year, the first Wildcat to do so since Austin Ganly in 2000-01.
Kemba Walker, who came in averaging 30.0 ppg, finished with 30 points on 7-for-16 shooting, including 2 of 5 from deep. Walker was also 14 of 16 from the charity stripe to go along with five rebounds, three steals and two assists.
The Wildcats led 7-6 just 4:10 into the contest when baskets by senior James Valladares (Kaufman, Texas) and freshman Jordon Bronner (Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.), followed by a 3-pointer from the right wing by Myrick, extended their lead to 14-6 with 12:14 remaining.
The Huskies closed to within 18-15 when Valladares, who had the final 10 points of the half for UNH, canned a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4:15 to play to open the Wildcat lead back up to six.
A 6-0 UConn run, including four points from Walker, tied the game, but another Valladares trey with 6.7 seconds on the clock gave UNH a 24-21 lead. Walker knocked down a jumper as time expired to cap the scoring. The Wildcats held their 24-23 halftime lead largely in part due to the 25-19 advantage they owned on the glass, including 9-3 on the offensive end.
Valladares finished with a career-high 12 points – all in the opening half – on 5 of 7 shooting, including 2 of 4 from behind the arc, and also tallied three rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes.
After a Walker layup just 12 seconds into the second half gave UConn its first lead of the game, a layup and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions by Myrick put UNH on top 29-25 with 17:23 remaining. After a pair of Walker free throws, a three-point play from senior Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) pushed the lead to five. DiLiegro then scored another tough bucket inside at 16:01 to stretch the UNH advantage to 34-28.
A put-back dunk and a layup by Alex Oriakhi sliced UConn's deficit to two before a three-point play by Shabazz Napier gave the Huskies the lead for good at 35-34 with 14:08 to play. Another Oriakhi basket capped the 9-0 run before a Myrick layup at 13:24 brought the Wildcats to within 37-36.
Walker then knocked down a 3-pointer before a Napier layup pushed the UConn lead to six with 12:27 to play. The lead was five at 49-44 when a Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) 3-pointer followed a Myrick layup to slice the UNH deficit to 49-48 with 8:24 on the clock.
From there, however, an 8-0 UConn run, including seven points from Walker, expanded the Huskies' lead to 57-48 with 3:05 remaining. The lead was eight when a Myrick 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:00 on the clock made it 58-53. DiLiegro then followed two Walker free throws with a tip-in to keep the deficit at five with 32 seconds left, but another pair of Walker free throws four seconds later closed the scoring.
DiLiegro posted seven points and 10 boards, while Conley tallied eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Junior Brian Benson (Rochester, N.Y.) added five points and six boards.
UConn outshot UNH, 38 percent (19-50) to 34 percent (22-64), but the Wildcats made 50 percent (8-16) of their 3-pointers, while the Huskies were 30 percent (3-10) from deep.
The Wildcats return to action Saturday, Dec. 4 (2 p.m.) when they travel to Colgate University.