WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Winless. Coming into the fifth of January, 2012, just five of 346 division I teams could claim that dubious distinction. Another five had yet to beat another Division I team, with their only win(s) coming over lower-level opposition. Heading into their America East Conference contest with New Hampshire, Hartford counted these teams as their brethren.
Let me pause for a minute to mention Hartford's home court -- Chase Arena at the Reich Family Pavilion. First of all, it was easy as pie to find -- Hartford does a nice job with their on-campus signs, constantly reassuring me that I was heading in the right direction every couple hundred yards. CCSU, you should look into this. Once I stepped into the facility, I fell in love at once. Relatively small, seating just over 4,000, the soaring roof and bright lighting made it feel bigger than it was. Speaking of the roof, I was enamored with it -- it was designed as essentially a gigantic groin vault made entirely of wood. The only thing I could think of off the top of my head that is similar was Eastern Kentucky's McBrayer Arena.
Things got off to what you could call a "slow start." At the first media timeout, the two teams had combined for more turnovers (5) and missed shots (5) than points (4). They wouldn't improve much -- the two teams combined shot an abhorrent 33-94 (35%); 4-30 from 3 (13%). The halftime score was 20-18 in favor of the visiting Wildcats.
Hartford would continue to trail (but by no more than eight) until five and a half minutes remained, when a Mark Nwakamma layup knotted it up at 40 all. A Nate Sikma layup about a minute later put Hartford back on top for the first time since their 6-0 start in the first 5:15 of the game. It stayed very tight from there, and three different Hawks made eight of ten free throws in the final minute to extend their lead and win their first game of the season, 56-49.
As it became clear the Hawks would get their first win, coach John Gallagher shook the hand of and/or hugged everyone on the bench as the team walked down the court following a last-second foul by the Wildcats. I thought it was a nice gesture, and you could tell Gallagher was excited. Not satisfied, but excited. It may be tempting to write off a season with a 1-13 start, but this far below the Red Line, the numbers between the parentheses are more significant. Early in the second season, Hartford is (1-1).
at HARTFORD 56, NEW HAMPSHIRE 49 01/05/2012
NEW HAMPSHIRE 5-8 (0-2) -- A. Abreu 3-10 2-2 10; B. Benson 3-6 2-5 8; J. Bronner 1-8 5-5 7; C. Rhoads 3-10 0-1 6; F. Myrick 3-6 5-10 12; P. Konan 1-5 2-2 4; S. Morris 1-5 0-0 2; C. Matagrano 0-1 0-0 0; J. Trotman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-51 16-25 49. HARTFORD 1-13 (1-1) -- A. Torres 6-14 14-17 27; N. Sikma 4-12 0-0 8; C. Brothers 1-1 1-2 3; M. Nwakamma 4-7 2-2 10; Y. Moore II 1-2 2-2 4; W. Cole 2-7 0-0 4; J. Schneck 0-0 0-0 0; C. Wroe 0-0 0-1 0; O. Faulk 0-0 0-0 0; R. Baker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-43 19-24 56.
Three-point goals: UNH 3-16 (A. Abreu 2-4; C. Rhoads 0-2; F. Myrick 1-3; P. Konan 0-1; J. Bronner 0-3; S. Morris 0-3), HART 1-14 (A. Torres 1-7; W. Cole 0-3; N. Sikma 0-4); Rebounds: UNH 34 (B. Benson 14), HART 33 (A. Torres 6); Assists: UNH 6 (A. Abreu 3), HART 5 (N. Sikma 2); Total Fouls -- UNH 23, HART 20; Fouled Out: UNH-C. Rhoads; HART-M. Nwakamma.