Men's Basketball: Wildcats stumble in second half at UMBC

By Rob Wilson
On February 7, 2014

The University of New Hampshire men's basketball team lost Wednesday night to conference foe UMBC 68-57 at RAC Arena. The loss drops UNH to 5-17 overall record and 3-6 in America East, while UMBC improves to 8-15 overall and 4-6 in American East Conference play.

Freshman Rodney Elliott netted 21 points on 6 of 12 shooting and 7-for-7 from the line to lead the Retrievers. Quentin Jones (16 points) and Brett Roseboro (10 points) also scored in double-digits for UMBC on its way to victory. 

Jacoby Armstrong scored eight of his 14 points in the second half and went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line to lead the Wildcats. Classmate Daniel Dion chipped in with 10 points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

In a game where the Wildcats held control in the majority of the first half, it was the second half that sent the team backward over untimely turnovers, missed shots and foul trouble.

UNH head coach Bill Herrion expressed his frustration with the team's performance in the second half as being a "dry spot" for them, where a time period of five minutes seems to make or break the game. 

"We played well at the first half and held a lead going into the locker room," Herrion said. "We even got up to nine early in the second half then [Chris] Pelcher and Armstrong got three fouls early, so I had to sit them. It just became a bad combination on the court during that time. You have to give UMBC credit though. They are a real athletic team that forced turnovers on us, which led to easy baskets for them. It was that five minute stretch that separated the game."

Senior Jordon Bronner opened the game with a free throw to put UNH up 1-0, but points to take an 8-1 advantage early on. Rodney Elliott scored the first five for UMBC on a jumper and a 3-pointer. Brett Roseboro capped the run with three of his own to put UMBC up 8-1.

Dion got a 15-0 run started for the Wildcats over the next seven minutes to take a 16-8 advantage when he buried a 3 from the left corner. Armstrong followed with a pair of free throws before Frank Okeke nailed his first 3-ball of the night. The Wildcats then got a layup from Armstrong, a 3-pointer from Bronner, and a Pelcher  layup, before Okeke closed out the run with a free throw.

UMBC followed with an 8-2 run to cut the UNH advantage to one point, but UNH kept fighting, eventually regaining a 29-24 halftime lead.

A balanced scoring offense paced UNH in the first period, as Armstrong, Pelcher, Bronner, and Okeke each finished the half with six points. Jones and Elliott led the way for UMBC in the first half, scoring eight and seven points, respectively.

The Wildcats extended their lead to 33-24 to open the second half. Armstrong got the first two for UNH on a pair of free throws before Pelcher added a layup to put UNH up six.

UMBC answered with a 7-2 run on five free throws and a layup by Quentin Jones to cut the UNH lead to 35-31. UNH and UMBC then traded baskets over the next two minutes.

The Retrievers followed with a 24-5 run to take a 60-47 lead with 6:44 remaining. Elliott led the charge for UMBC, scoring 11 of the 24 points for the Retrievers during the span.

The Wildcats didn't give up, as they quickly responded with a 10-2 run to trim the UMBC lead to 62-57. 

Jaleen Smith got it started when he scored a layup in traffic and got fouled. After he nailed the free throw, the Wildcats got a stop on defense leading up to two more free throws from Armstrong to cut the lead to 60-52. After a jumper from UMBC's Charles Taylor Jr., freshman John Edwards hit the first 3-pointer of his career to bring UNH within seven and Armstrong added two free throws to make it a five-point game.

UMBC refused to be denied though, as they closed out the game on a 6-0 run to earn the 68-57 victory.

Losing stings. However, the team remains positive knowing it is only an amount of time where things go its way. A big part of the team's struggles have stemmed from the absence of second-leading scorer Patrick Konan, as well as Pelcher playing just one game between Dec. 4 and Jan. 20. 

The positives that come out of this season are rookies Dion, Armstong and Smith, and what they have been accomplishing with the veteran players being out. They have picked up the load, providing valuable minutes for the Wildcats day in and day out, which is something Herrion praises.

"These young kids are getting enormous playing time and seeing them improve over the course of this season is positive," Herrion said.

Going into Stony Brook this Saturday, Herrion understands the team's quick turn-around with consecutive road games and knows that Stony Brook will be a tough matchup. 

"With these road games so close to each other I'm concerned about the lack of preparation," Herrion said. "Stony Brook has been a dominant team over the last three or four years in this league and has played very good at home this season going 10-1, so we know what we are up against. We are going to have to mix-up man and zone on the defensive side."

UNH returns to action Saturday afternoon when it travels to Long Island to take on the Stony Brook Seawolves at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN 3. The Wildcats return to Lundholm Gymnasium on Wednesday, Feb. 12 when they host the Binghamton Bearcats at 7 p.m.


Rob Wilson can be reached on Twitter @RobWilson

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