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2018 can be a record setting year for New Hampshire

Coaching milestones and a senior duo that’s still getting it done.

 
UNH head coach Bill Herrion notched his 400th career victory on Wednesday in Durham, N.H.
Tony Capobianco photo

UNH head coach Bill Herrion notched his 400th career victory after his Wildcats defeated the Binghamton Bearcats 71-67 on Wednesday at the Lundholm Gym.

With the win, UNH broke the tie in the all-time series with Binghamton and now lead 18-17. UNH has also won the last eight meetings against the Bearcats, including 13 of the last 16.

“This is my 28th year as a head coach and I’ve kind of been through it all,” Herrion said. “The game of basketball has given me an unbelievable opportunity and life to do something I love. It’s in my blood. The game of basketball has given me more than I have given the game of basketball.”

As usual, UNH seniors Iba Camara and Tanner Leissner led the way for the Wildcats. Both seniors had double-doubles and are leading the America East in that cateogry. Camara got his in the first half against Binghamton. Leissner has been the Wildcats’ leading scorer in 14 of the team’s 17 games this season while Camara has been the top rebounder in 10 of their games.

Tony Capobianco photo

Both seniors are chasing records in their final year. Camara, who leads the America East in rebounding, is ranked No. 2 in career rebounds with 868 and is only 29 from Daver Pemberton’s record of 897. Leissner, No. 2 in career points, reached the 1,700 career point mark on Wednesday against Binghamton and just needs 146 to pass Al McClain’s 1,861 points. He’ll need to average at least 10.4 points per game for the remainder of the season in order to break the record.

It’s safe to say it is inevitable that both Leissner and Camara will end their senior seasons with the school records. It feels amazing for them because it was beyond their imagination when the two first entered the program as freshmen. Around that time, the Wildcats were entering their first ever postseason tournament. Sure it was the CIT, but it was something for UNH.

It wasn’t until the end of their junior years where the records seemed obtainable. At the end of the day, the two knew that their accolades wouldn’t be possible if not for the coach of the hour.

“It was a great experience,” Camara said. “If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be here.”

“Coach has been nothing but great to me,” Leissner added. “If anybody deserves this, it’s him.”

Herrion, who will turn 60 years of age in April, started his coaching career at Boston University as an assistant in 1985, four years after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.

His first head coaching gig came in 1991 at Drexel, where he led the Dragons to a three-year dynasty over the America East tournament, which included three straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1994-96.

After a six year run at East Carolina, Herrion joined UNH in 2005 and at some point realized that what makes a good coach is players like Leissner and Camara. With those two players at his program, Herrion overseen the greatest three-year run in school history, consisting of the first two postseason tournament appearances and two 20-win seasons.

“This is not about me at all,” Herrion said. “You don’t get wins like that unless you have had very good players along the way, and I have been fortunate to have great players.”

This season, UNH is a conundrum of sorts. The Wildcats are in the nation’s top 15 in free throw percentage and rebound margin. They are also on top of the America East leaderboard in eight different statistical categories, mostly on defense. And yet they are 0-8 away from the Lundholm Gym.

However, the Wildcats have made up for their non-conference struggles. Apparently after starting the season 3-10, they asked Santa Clause for a turnaround and their prayers were answered, going 3-1 after the holiday including a 2-1 start to the conference slate of the season.

“We’re getting better defensively,” Herrion said. “We think our defense is getting better. Really proud of the kids. We’re playing good basketball. I think each game we’re becoming a better basketball team.”

It was probably hard to truly believe that the Wildcats were really going to spiral down the toilet considering they won 20 games in the last two seasons. With their current senior crop, two many opposing coaches like Niagara’s Chris Casey and Albany’s Will Brown said how good UNH is despite the record.

There’s also no way the Wildcats are going to go the entire season without a road win. At this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see UNH in the upper half of the conference by the end of the regular season.