SPORTS_Rivier at UNH Mens BBall

UNH men’s basketball coach Bill Herrion instructs players, including Nick Guadarrama and Jayden Martinez.

It’s been a rocky yet promising start to the season for the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team.

A win over Division III Saint Joseph’s gave way to a tight loss at Marquette in Milwaukee.

Last Thursday, the Wildcats took on another Big East opponent on the road and fell to Providence College 69-58. However, within those two losses there was a whole lot to like for the Wildcats, who host Quinnipiac today at 4 p.m.

“I think we have a good basketball team right now. I think we’re far from where we can be,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said after the Providence game.

“It’s day to day, it’s what we do in practice, and it’s one game at a time. I think we have a chance to have a good team as we move forward.”

Last Thursday in Rhode Island, the Wildcats turned an 11-point deficit in the first half into a lead early in the second half against a bigger Providence team.

While the results weren’t there, the pieces to a successful season, and a run to the program’s first postseason tournament since making the CIT in 2016 are there. Nick Guadarrama and Jayden Martinez are veteran anchors who play big minutes and score big points. Against Providence, Guadarrama had 13 points despite playing through an ankle injury.

“Nick is a really tough kid,” Herrion said. “I apologized to him in the locker room after the game. He shouldn’t be guarding Nate Watson (6-foot, 10 inches, 260 pounds) for 40 minutes. We have to get more out of our other frontcourt players. Nick is the least of my worries.”

UNH features a pair of graduate students in Chris Lester and Josh Hopkins, who have played a combined 165 games for the Wildcats.

Against Providence, Houston Baptist transfer Qon Murphy had 15 points off the bench, and sophomore Blondeau Tchoukuiegno had eight points and a game-high seven assists. Add in 6-11 Bowling Green transfer and Kearsarge Regional High grad Tyler Mattos, who is currently out injured, and the Wildcats have a core to build around heading into the meat of the season.

“Taylor Mattos is a big body,” Herrion said. “He gives you size around the basket, in the paint. Josh Hopkins is a fifth-year guy that’s played a lot of Division I college games so he gives you a good defender on the perimeter and can make some threes.

“That’s part of the game; guys are going to get injured and hurt, and the way we try to practice and approach things it’s next guy up.”