New Hampshire losing games but winning respect
The New Hampshire Wildcats have lost all but two of their games this season but have been winning the respect of opposing coaches in the process.
Niagara played New Hampshire for the first time since the 1980’s, when the Purple Eagles have won 12 of the 17 game series. Niagara won once again 78-70 but head coach Chris Casey found them to be a difficult opponent to best.
“They’re tough,” Casey said. “I know what their record is, but they’re tough and they’re well coached.”
The Wildcats are a team that lives and dies with their senior forward, Tanner Leissner. He is the only player who has started every game and has led the team through all the different lineup changes.
“[Leissner’s] really good,” Casey said. “He’s a problem because he can score from the perimeter, shooting the ball. He can drive the ball. He’s very physical and tough around the basket. He’s a problem.”
Leissner is one of the best basketball players New Hampshire has ever had. That may not be saying much considering the Wildcats have never played in the NCAA Tournament but Leissner has scored at least 20 points in every game this season and became the fifth player in school history to reach the 1,500 career point mark against Boston University at the end of November.
However, the Wildcats can only run him in isolation for so much. It’s seems that even when Leissner fills up the stat sheet, New Hampshire still loses. The Wildcats are at the bottom of the nation in assists per game. The Wildcats have made comebacks before and have led at halftime but more often than not, have failed to close the deal in the game’s final minutes.
“It’s really frustrating,” Leissner said. “In the past, we’ve closed games like these out. That zone just really made us go stagnant. We didn’t get much ball movement, and when we did, it was all on the perimeter.”
The NCAA basketball season is meaningless for many mid-major programs until the conference tournaments begin. There may be still a chance for the Wildcats to rise up and win the America East tournament.