Although the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (8-10, 3-4 America East) currently sit near the bottom of the America East standings in seventh place, this team should not be taken lightly. Of the Wildcats’ four losses in conference play, three of those were by six points or fewer. Their one double-digit loss was to the University of Maine Black Bears, who currently sit atop the AE standings. The Binghamton Bearcats (9-13, 4-3 AE) will host the Wildcats tomorrow at the Events Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
This will also be the first meeting between the Bearcats and the Wildcats since New Hampshire nearly knocked Binghamton out of contention for the AE title in last season’s conference tournament. If not for a last-second steal and dunk by then-junior swingman D.J. Rivera, the Bearcats would have likely fallen to the gritty Wildcats squad.
New Hampshire lost its first- and fourth-leading scorers from last season to graduation, but the traditionally balanced squad has done a nice job of adapting. Junior guards Alvin Abreu and Tyrone Conley lead the way for the Wildcats at 13.7 and 12.6 points per game, respectively. Junior big man Dane DiLiegro, a 6-foot-9-inch and 240-pound defensive stalwart, is also an integral part to this team as he contributes 10.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as well as an imposing interior presence. Last season, the Bearcats were able to hold all three of these players in check in their three games, other than one 23-point explosion by Abreu in a one-point overtime win over the Wildcats.
The Wildcats are on a two-game winning streak. On Jan. 21, they narrowly escaped what would have been a surprising loss to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a final score of 62-58. Two days ago, on Jan. 27, New Hampshire had what could end up being its most impressive win of the season when it defeated Vermont in convincing fashion with a final score of 75-56. Like the Bearcats, New Hampshire lost to conference foes Boston University, Hartford and Maine. Both Binghamton and UNH have defeated Albany, UMBC and Vermont. The one difference in the two teams’ schedules is that, while New Hampshire lost to Stony Brook, the Bearcats were able to squeeze out a victory against their SUNY counterpart, 64-62.
The Bearcats have been exceeding expectations thus far this season, as they have already beaten two of the top teams in the conference. Three games after downing the Stony Brook Seawolves, the Bearcats defeated perennial powerhouse Vermont.
Most recently, the Bearcats defeated last place UMBC 80-63 in Maryland. Newcomers Dylan Talley and Greer Wright continue to impress with their strong play. Despite being a freshman, Talley is the team’s starting point guard and is second on the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game. Greer Wright, a junior transfer and the team’s starting small forward, is averaging 15 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Going into Saturday’s contest, he leads the Bearcats in all four categories.
With this game, the Bearcats hope to move up the conference standings, in which they currently sit in fifth place, and hope to continue to exceed expectations.