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NCAA Men's Basketball: Herrion says mentality a worry for UNH

Special to the Union Leader

December 10. 2017 3:01AM

WORCESTER, Mass. - New Hampshire men's basketball coach Bill Herrion didn't mince words when describing his team's major problem not only in Saturday's non-conference game at Holy Cross but over the season so far.

"A lot of people don't like to hear this but I've been concerned with our toughness or lack of collectively," Herrion said after the Crusaders edged the Wildcats, 62-58. "I'm not talking about one particular player. It's collective.

"I'm not sure we're a real tough-minded basketball team right now. I think losing we'll do that to you. We had a six-game losing streak and a tough early-season schedule. We beat Bryant a week ago and we got beat by Niagara the other night and obviously today."

Herrion also didn't mince words when discussing what he must do to overcome this problem.

"It's the hardest thing I think in coaching in this day and age," Herrion said. "You battle more with these kids more from the neck up. When you lose, the big challenge you have as a head coach is motivation.

"Human nature with kids when they lose is, especially guys who aren't playing, 'It's not me. I'm not going to work as hard.' That's a challenge right now."

Herrion had zero qualms with his team's physical effort against Holy Cross (3-6).

"I don't think competing was an issue with us," he said. "I thought we played hard. I thought we competed hard."

Tanner Leissner paced UNH (2-8) with a double-double (16 points, 15 rebounds) while Jordan Reed matched his season-high with 16 points.

Austin Butler led the Crusaders with 16 points (including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc) while Caleb Green added 12.

UNH trailed 27-22 at halftime and never was able to regain the lead.

The closest the Wildcats could get was two points (58-56) on Reed trey with 33.4 seconds left.

After the Green missed the back end of a two-shot foul, UNH had a chance to tie the game but Reed clanged a trey.

Holy Cross then iced the game at the free throw line when Matt Zignorski connected on 3-of-4 free throw shots.

At the end, UNH only shot 32.8 percent (19-58) from the floor.

"Their defense is tough," Herrion said. "It's unorthodox because you don't see a 1-3-1 half-court zone on a miss and they're in a matchup on a make."

The fact UNH only trailed 27-22 at halftime was noteworthy considering its sloppy ball handling and its inability to defend against the 3- point shot.

UNH committed 10 turnovers, which the Crusaders capitalized on by scoring 13 points.

"What really hurt us were our turnovers in the first half," Herrion said. "We had 10 at the half against a non-pressing team."

And despite the fact UNH played a zone defense, the Crusaders torched it for 42.9 percent (6-14) from beyond the arc.

The first half was tied twice, the last at 7-7 before the Crusaders started converting turnovers into baskets. But the Wildcats rode the play of Iba Camara and grabbed their last lead of the half at 22-21 on his tip-in with 2:32 left.

Holy Cross went on a 6-0 run to close the half with Green nailing a jumper, Karl Charles draining a trey and Butler converting 1-of-2 free throw attempts.

"We're predominantly a man-to-man defensive team," Herrion said while noting Holy Cross shot 40.7 percent (11-27) from three-point range. "You're going to say they made 11 threes. But I thought our zone was pretty good.

"We don't play it a lot but it gave us a chance."

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