DURHAM — Punches to the gut have been the norm this year for the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team and Wednesday was no different.
An early lead disappeared quickly as Marist held UNH scoreless for the final 11:37 of the first half, raced to a 21-point halftime lead and held off a late Wildcats rally to secure a 58-49 victory at Lundholm Gym. Marist had eight players make a field goal, led by 15 points from senior Brian Parker.
“I know the first half was brutal,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said. “What is really killing this team is our inability to play 40 minutes especially on the defensive end of the floor.”
The Wildcats were abysmal in the first half and never climbed out of the hole. Marist went into halftime up 33-12 as the Wildcats could not shoot. UNH shot 18.2 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes and did not have a two-point field goal.
Add in a minus-seven rebounding margin and New Hampshire simply didn’t have the points needed for a comeback.
Despite coming up short, UNH left it on the court in the second half. The Wildcats chipped away throughout, getting as close as six points, but could not reach the summit.
Senior captain Jordan Reed led the Wildcats with 12 points and seven rebounds. Freshmen Jayden Martinez (nine points, six rebounds) and Nick Guadarrama (eight points, seven rebounds) shined as well. Junior guard Mark Carbone had 11 points off the bench.
“We’re relying on a lot of young guys,” Herrion said. “I think they’re getting unbelievable experiences and they’re giving us production.”
The second half was all New Hampshire as the Wildcats found a rhythm on offense and distributed the ball well across the court. UNH shot 48.4 percent after halftime and kept Marist from making big shots early in the half.
After being outscored 16-0 in the paint in the first half, the Wildcats responded by outscoring the Red Foxes 16-10 on the inside in the final 20 minutes.
However, Marist did what it had to in the final three minutes to keep UNH from turning the corner. New Hampshire missed three threes in the final three minutes that could have shifted the momentum in the game.
“Coach always challenges us when we don’t play a good first half,” Reed said. “We came out playing harder than we did in the first half. We started getting stops and converting on the offensive end. Overall everyone’s playing harder and getting better. I think we’re all starting to get adjusted.”
The loss drops New Hampshire to 2-9 on the season, although the 58 points allowed was the Wildcats’ best defensive performance of the season. UNH returns to Lundholm Gym on Saturday with a matinee against nonleague foe Fairfield.