Preview: Duquesne Dukes vs. New Hampshire Wildcats

Nov 29, 2012; Hartford, CT, USA; New Hampshire Wildcats center Chris Pelcher (44) and guard Chandler Rhoads (3) react to play against the Connecticut Huskies during the second half at the XL Center. UConn defeated the Wildcats 61-53. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In a scheduling oddity for Duquesne second only to the conference slate featuring the Rams, the Rams, and of course the Rams, Duquesne opens the 2013-14 season with two consecutive opponents who go by the name “Wildcats.”

In this case, these Wildcats hail from the University of New Hampshire and visit A. J. Palumbo on November 13th. While they’re a more established program than Abeline Christian, they don’t have much in their history other than some games.

Historically, this is a program that has not achieved. The simple reason is that UNH is first and foremost a hockey school, with basketball an afterthought. Indeed, the navy, grey, and white of their hockey jerseys are rather well-known in college hockey circles. Only two coaches in the history of the basketball program have posted career winning records at New Hampshire since 1912 and the school has never appeared in a postseason tournament. They’ve also never appeared in a conference final.

The long term goals of the UNH program aren’t clear. Coach Bill Herrion – and before you can check Wikipedia, yes, his brother is Tom Herrion of Marshall – was quite successful during his time at Drexel in the 1990s. However, he hasn’t had a winning season since he left the Dragons and started at East Carolina in 1998. In six years with the Pirates and eight with the Wildcats, his best season was a 14-14 mark during the 2000-01 ECU campaign.

All of that said, Herrion is the one of just two coaches in the entire history of the UNH program to reach 50 wins in less than five seasons. I’ll let you do the math there.

Coach Herrion notes on America East’s UNH Team Capsule (which features the worst infographic in the history of infographics – seriously, check it out) that they’re a young team. “It’s a transition for sure, but I think it’s exciting. There’s a good mix of older veteran players … but then we have five new freshmen.” These freshmen are going to see some playing time this year, too, and Coach has made them aware of that in practice. “I’m going to have to coach you like you’re a little bit older,” he informed them in the early going.

Veteran leadership is what it is all about at the midmajor level, and UNH has struggled in that department. ”To be successful … and this is what we lacked last year… our older guys have to be good.”

UNH does have some older guys who can be good. The top of that heap is 6-6 senior forward Patrick Konan, who averaged 11.8 points and 5.4 boards per game. He’s joined in the front court by 6-10 center Chris Pelcher, who returns to the court after missing time last season to an injury. Herrion thinks that he is ready to go. “We think Chris Pelcher is healthy now. He was great early in the year. People really played him like he was a premier big guy, then he got hurt later in the year.”

Pelcher’s stats tell the same story as his coach. He was in double figures early in nine of his first 12 games last year, but only hit that mark in two of the final 13 games that he appeared in. Duquesne will indeed have to defend him as if he were a premier big man, especially if the stats represent a healthy player vs. an injured player. Certainly Chris is healthy and fresh now.

Pelcher is not the only injury that the Wildcats have faced, as Scottie Morris is coming off of a leg injury. Herrion says “He’s fine.”

There is a tiny taste of local flavor to this game, as Matt Miller, once a member of the Seton Hill basketball team in Greensburg, PA, is eligible after sitting out a year due to transfer rules. Otherwise, there is not a lot of story to tell. Beyond Konan and Pelcher, there aren’t many proven players on the roster, hence the anticipated reliance on newcomers. “We’re going to have to play the freshmen,” emphasized Coach Herrion, “so we’re going to have to be patient.”

Duquesne fans are familiar with the youth movement and the influx of new players. Similar to Duquesne, the players young and old will have to step up for UNH if they are to improve from last year’s 9 – 20 mark.

The Wildcats played one game prior to the meeting with the Dukes against Suffolk University, a Division III school in Boston. Duquesne will be their first game against legitimate competition. Here are some highlights from the Suffolk game – taken with a grain of salt, of course, since they are a lower division team:

  • Chris Pelcher put up impressive stats – 25 points and 17 rebounds. His five turnovers against this relatively weak team could be something for the Dukes to pick at.
  • His fellow forward and leader Patrick Konan put up 19 and 7. These two accounted for nearly half of UNH’s offense.
  • Lots of turnovers against a DIII team indicates sloppy play. UNH had 16.
  • 10 of those turnovers were steals. The pressure that the Dukes bring could be very disruptive.

Final note – Herrion and the Wildcats last met Jim Ferry in 2008 while he was at LIU-Brooklin. The Blackbirds won that game 76 – 72.

 

Topics: Dukes, Duquesne, New Hampshire, UNH, Wildcats

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