The University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team opened Wednesday night’s America East clash against the University of Maine with 15 unanswered points and went on to a 73-61 victory over the Black Bears at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, New Hampshire.
The win avenged a 71-64 loss to UMaine at Orono on Monday in the first game of the annual border series, a result that gave the Black Bears their first Division I and conference victory of the season.
The split of the season series leaves UNH at 8-7 overall, 3-2 in America East, while UMaine is 4-14 overall, 1-6 in the conference.
UMaine still leads the 199-game series between the neighboring rivals 122-77.
UNH guard Blondeau Tchoukuiengo, who scored just five points on 2-of-11 shooting on Monday, scored 23 points in the rematch by making 8 of 10 attempts from the field and all three of his 3-pointers and all four of his free throws.
Jayden Martinez added 17 points for the Wildcats while Marco Foster scored 14 and Nick Guadarrama finished with 12.
Freshman guard Sam Ihekwoaba came off the bench to pace UMaine with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Vukasin Masic scored 12 points for the Black Bears while freshman forward Kristians Feierbergs had 10 points and four rebounds and redshirt junior forward Stephane Ingo finished with eight points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
UMaine, which made 14 of 28 3-point tries in the earlier meeting, shot just 33 percent (5 for 15) from beyond the arc in Wednesday’s game.
UNH made six of its first eight shots en route to the 15-0 lead it built during the first 3 minutes, 48 seconds of play, and a long 3-pointer by Foster in the final seconds of the first half enabled the Wildcats to maintain a 42-27 at the break.
That was one of five first-half 3-pointers in 13 attempts for UNH, while UMaine — which went 14 of 28 from beyond the arc Monday night — made 1 of 4 from long distance during the opening half.
UNH’s largest lead of the half was 17 points while UMaine got only as close as 12 points twice before intermission, the first time at 25-13 on two Feierbergs free throws with 7:49 left and the second time on a steal and layup by Ihekwoaba with 35 seconds remaining.
UNH also came out strong after intermission, scoring 10 unanswered points after UMaine’s Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish opened the second half with a 3-pointer to cut the Black Bears’ deficit to 42-30.
Foster answered with a 3-pointer for New Hampshire, then Martinez scored seven straight points on a jumper, a layup and a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 52-30 cushion with 16:45 remaining.
UNH took its largest lead at 62-37 on a Tchoukuiengo 3-pointer with 12:21 remaining and still led 69-50 after another basket by Tchoukuiengo with 5:25 left before UMaine went on a 9-2 run to get back to within 12 at 71-59 after a 3-pointer by Ihekwoaba followed by a Maks Klanjscek dunk with 3:05 to play.
That was as close as Maine got in the final minutes.
UMaine next plays at 1 p.m. Saturday at Vermont before returning home to host Hartford at 7 p.m. Monday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.