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Men's Basketball: UNH looking for answers after loss to Niagara

Special to the Union Leader

December 06. 2017 12:21AM

DURHAM — Nine ties and 12 lead changes all led to what has become a regular occurrence for the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team: a loss.

The Wildcats (2-7) went shot-for-shot with the Niagara, and held the high-powered Eagles below their season average, but it wasn’t enough as Niagara dominated down the stretch for a 78-70 win at Lundholm Gym.

“If we’re going to be a good basketball team, that’s a game that you’ve got to try to find a way to win,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said. “We just didn’t have enough leadership out on the court other than Tanner (Leissner).”

UNH led 68-65 with 4:08 to go but had no answer for Kahlil Dukes and Matt Scott. The veteran pair from Niagara (4-5) dominated the final stretch of the game, combining for all of the Purple Eagles’ final 13 points en route to the win.

Dukes finished with a game-high 31 points while Scott added 27. The pair combined for 39 of Niagara’s 47 points in the second half.

“I don’t know where our toughness is,” Herrion said. “I thought we made great strides Saturday defensively. We didn’t accept the challenge of guarding either (Scott or Dukes). You’ve got to make it way tougher than it was.”

Neither team was able to generate much distance from the other. Niagara led by eight at the horn and UNH led by as many as five in the first half. Niagara, which entered the game averaging 88 points a contest, was held to just 31 in the first half before finding its rhythm after halftime.

A bright spot for the Wildcats was the play of Elijah Jordan. The freshman scored a career-high 19 points, including 15 in the first half. He also finished with a game-high five assists.

Leissner carried the ’Cats in the second half, scoring 13 of his team-high 24 points in the final 20 minutes.

After a convincing win over Bryant on Saturday, the Wildcats reverted back to the play that has generated seven losses this season, including four by single digits. In their other two home games against Division I competition this season, the Wildcats lost to American University by four points and to Boston University by one.

“It’s a leadership thing,” Herrion said. “I can’t really totally explain it to you right now. Tanner Leissner’s a quiet kid, but I think his game leads. You need other older guys to get involved, and they’re not getting involved. It’s extremely frustrating.”

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