(Durham, New Hampshire) – Temperatures in Durham dipped into the single digits Thursday night with bone-chilling blasts of arctic air bombing down Main Street.
They had nothing on the frigid shooting and ice-cold offense inside Lundholm Gymnasium.
The New Hampshire Wildcats and the University of Hartford Hawks engaged in a reverse-game of HORSE Thursday night; any shot you can miss, I can miss… better. The Hawks eventually emerged as the lesser of two evils in the battle of horrifically bad offenses, pulling away for a 51-40 win.
“In the first half it was not a picturesque game,” said New Hampshire head coach Bill Herrion.
In the opening 20 minutes of basketball, neither team could crack 20 points – or hit water if they fell out of a canoe – and the two teams went into the halftime locker rooms deadlocked at 19. Hartford shot just 32 percent from the floor (8-of-25) and 18.2 percent from behind the line (2-of-11) in the first half – and they had the hot hand. New Hampshire shot 31.6 percent from the floor (6-of-19) and 0-for-4 from behind the arc. Each team played stifling defense… when they had the ball in their own hands.
It was a barn-burner alright: If the action was any livelier, a funeral may have broken out on the court.
The difference in the game was that Hartford had a go-to scorer in forward Mark Nwakamma, and New Hampshire didn’t have an answer.
“We have a guy, sitting to my left – Mark Nwakamma – who can take over a lot of games, and we were fortunate to have him on our team tonight and that’s just the bottom line,” said Hartford head coach John Gallagher.
“They went to the kid Nwakamma and we had no answers. He’s really good – he’s really, really good,” said Herrion. “He’s a First Team All-Conference guy. He’s a premier player,” raved Herrion.
The league’s leading scorer in conference games at just over 17 points per contest, Nwakamma was largely held in check in the first half, but broke through the ice in the second, scoring 16 of his game-high 23 points after the intermission, almost single-handedly carrying Hartford to victory. The 6’6” sophomore hit 11-of-20 shots from the floor while showcasing a complete offensive arsenal, scoring on the blocks on an array of low-post moves; off the bounce blowing by overmatched defenders; and in the mid-range game, knocking down jumpers. Nwakamma added eight rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block.
“He can score in, out, up, down. He’s a prolific scorer,” said Gallagher.
“I’ve been in this league, a long time – he’s a really good player,” said Herrion. “He can post you, he’s very quick, he can face [up] 15, 17 feet.”
Hartford shot 41.7 percent from the floor (20-of-48) and 23.5 percent (4-of-17) from behind the arc. Outside of Nwakamma, the rest of the Hawks roster combined to shoot just 32.1 percent (9-of-28) from the floor. New Hampshire managed just 34.9 percent shooting (15-of-43) while missing all 10 of its three-point attempts – the first time in more than 20 years that New Hampshire had failed to hit at least one three in a game.
“We’re obviously not in a good spot, at all,” said Herrion. “Our confidence is shot, there’s no question about it. I think it affects both ends of the floor.” (more…)