ALBANY, N.Y. – Senior Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) scored 15 points, including the 1,000th of his career, but the University of New Hampshire men's basketball team dropped its America East opener to the University at Albany, 59-44, Sunday afternoon at SEFCU Arena.
The Wildcats drop below .500 for the first time all season at 6-7, including 0-1 in the conference. It marks the longest the 'Cats have stayed at or above .500 to open a season since the 1994-95 campaign when they were never less than one game above .500. The Great Danes improve to 8-8, 1-0.
Conley, the Wildcats' America East Player of the Game, became the 28th member of UNH's 1,000 point club 5:41 into the second half when he stole the ball near midcourt and went in for an uncontested one-handed slam. Conley tied a season high with four 3-pointers and added four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 35 minutes.
Tim Ambrose, Albany's America East Player of the Game, led the Great Danes with 16 points on 7 of 15 shooting, to go along with nine rebounds and five assists.
Albany started the game on a 12-3 run with nine points from Mike Black. UNH then fired back with a 12-2 run of its own, which was sparked by a Conley 3-pointer at the 11:00 mark. Another trey from sophomore Ferg Myrick (Philadelphia, Pa.) midway through the half cut the deficit to three. After an Ambrose bucket on the following possession, a three-point play from senior Dane DiLiegro (Lexington, Mass.) sliced it to a pair before freshman Scott Morris (Walkersville, Md.) drilled a 3 that gave the Wildcats a 15-14 advantage with 8:12 to play in the opening half.
Myrick followed a John Puk bucket with another 3-pointer that put the Wildcats on top, 18-16, with 6:54 remaining. That was the last lead the 'Cats would have, however, as another Puk basket tied the game and ignited a 12-2 Albany run that made it 28-20 with 2:34 to go. Luke Devlin's trey with 4:32 left gave the Great Danes the lead for good at 21-18. A pair of baskets by junior Brian Benson (Rochester, N.Y.) closed the scoring and cut Albany's lead to 28-24 at the break.
Myrick recorded 12 points and two assists and has now scored in double figures in 12 of 13 games this season. DiLiegro posted five points and 11 boards, while Benson tallied six points, eight rebounds and a block. Morris chipped in with six points and an assist in 11 minutes.
Benson's fifth and sixth straight points on a jumper from the right baseline made it a two-point game to open the second half, but a 10-3 run by Albany widened the gap to 38-29 with 15:15 remaining. After Conley's milestone dunk, four straight points from Ambrose stretched the lead to 11 at 42-31 with 12:57 to play.
A Conley 3-pointer cut it to eight on the next possession before the Great Danes pushed it back to 10 at 44-34 with 10:52 to go. The lead was still 10 (47-37) when a modest 5-1 spurt by Albany ran it to 52-38 at 6:02. Conley followed with another trey, but baskets by Ambrose and Blake Metcalf opened up Albany's largest lead of the game at 56-41 with 3:25 to play. Morris sank his second 3-pointer of the game to cut it to 12 with 3:06 left, but Ambrose answered with his own 3 to close the scoring at the 2:33 mark.
Albany outshot UNH, 51 percent (21-41) to 30 percent (16-53), from the floor, including 50 percent (5-10) to 27 percent (8-30) from behind the arc. The 30 3-point attempts were a season high for the Wildcats, who were forced to take more long-range shots against the Albany zone. The Great Danes also held a slight edge on the glass (34-33) and turned the ball over 13 times, while forcing 14 UNH turnovers.
Conley finished with 1,006 points and moved past Pat Manor (1,000) for 27th on UNH's all-time scoring list.
The Wildcats return to action Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 7:30 p.m. when they wrap up their six-game road swing against Boston University at Case Gymnasium. The game will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet. The next home game for the 'Cats is Saturday, Jan. 8 (1 p.m.) when they play host to Binghamton University at Lundholm Gymnasium.