WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Senior Tyrone Conley (Burlington, Vt.) scored 16 points, while junior Brian Benson (Rochester, N.Y.) equaled him with a career-high 16 to go along with 15 rebounds for his second career double-double, but it was not enough as the University of New Hampshire men's basketball team dropped its regular-season finale to the University of Hartford, 62-54, in America East action at Chase Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The Wildcats wrap up the regular season at 12-17 overall and 6-10 in America East play, while the Hawks are 10-19, 7-9 in the conference. UNH earns the No. 7 seed for next weekend's America East tournament and will take on second-seeded Boston University, while Hartford nabs the No. 6 seed and will battle third-seeded University of Maine on their home court.
Conley shot 4-for-12 from the field, including 4-for-8 from behind the arc, to go along with three rebounds, two assists and a block in 40 minutes. Benson was named UNH's America East Player of the Game as he was 8-for-12 from the floor and blocked a pair of shots. The eight field goals were a career best. Freshman Scott Morris (Walkersville, Md.) netted 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting, including 4 of 10 from deep, to go along with a pair of assists.
Joe Zeglinski and Kevin Estes shared America East Player of the Game honors for Hartford with 22 points, six rebounds and 11 points, five rebounds, respectively.
Knotted at 13 with 10:51 remaining in the opening half, Hartford scored five straight points to grab an 18-13 lead with 7:37 left. Morris would drain a 3-pointer later in the half that cut the deficit to three. Morris then assisted on an inside basket from Benson that brought the Wildcats to within 24-23 with 3:19 to play.
A long jumper from Genesis Maciel, followed by six straight points from Estes, closed the first-half scoring with Hartford holding a 31-23 advantage. The Hawks outshot UNH, 52 percent (13-25) to 37.5 percent (9-24) from the floor, while the Wildcats held a 45.5 percent (5-11) to 28.6 percent (2-7) advantage from behind the arc.
Morris knocked down a jumper to open the second half and cut the deficit to six, but that was as close as the Wildcats would get the rest of the way. Eight straight Hartford points quickly ballooned the lead to 14, and after UNH had sliced it to nine, an 11-2 run gave the Hawks their largest lead of the afternoon at 50-32 with 12:22 remaining.
A Conley trey sparked an 8-0 run that brought the Wildcats within 10, but six straight Hartford points pushed the lead back to 16. A pair of free throws from freshman Jordon Bronner (Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.) and two layups from Benson cut it back to 10, but UNH would not get it closer than the final margin of eight.
Sophomore Chandler Rhoads (Berryville, Va.) scored just three points, but pulled in seven rebounds and handed out five assists.
Hartford outshot UNH, 43.9 percent (25-57) to 35.3 percent (18-51), while the Wildcats outshot the Hawks, 40 percent (8-20) to 23.8 percent (5-21) from long distance. Hartford held a 42-32 advantage on the glass and outscored the Wildcats, 32-20, in the paint.
The seventh-seeded Wildcats return to action Saturday, March 4 at 6:05 p.m. when they take on No. 2 Boston U. in the quarterfinal round of the America East Championship tournament at Hartford's Chase Arena.