Saturday night at Island Federal Credit Union Arena pitted the top two men’s basketball teams in the America East conference. With the Vermont Catamounts the number one offensive team and the Stony Brook Seawolves the number one defensive team, the game was expected to be a back-and-forth affair.
Even in a packed house, Stony Brook wasn’t able to get over that final hump to take a late lead over Vermont.
“We talked about coming out of the second half with a sense of urgency and we didn’t do that,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “You can’t go behind against a really good team. You have to get shots against Vermont and you have to make jump shots. We got a little sloppy in transition and they made plays.”
The Seawolves seemed primed to make one of their late-game comebacks, cutting the Catamounts lead from 25 to 11 points late in the second half, but weren’t able to trim the lead down more and eventually dropped their first game in conference play by a final of 52-73.
The Catamounts came out hot to open the second half, scoring seven quick points to force Boals to call timeout. Vermont controlled the game for a majority of the second half and was able to hold off Stony Brook and its late comeback attempts.
“We thought ahead too much instead of just playing in the moment,” freshman guard Miles Latimer said. “When I saw the lead go down to 20, I said, ‘Come on guys, let’s just rally back up,’ but I think some of us were rattled and I feel like we didn’t have our heads on straight.”
Vermont’s redshirt-senior guard Ernie Duncan led all scorers with 25 points, while his brother, redshirt-junior guard Everett Duncan, put up 20 points. Head coach John Becker said that Everett was playing the power forward position for the night to replace junior forward Anthony Lamb, who was out with a concussion.
Boals spoke highly of the brothers, crediting their poise throughout the contest.
“Give credit to Vermont and to both Duncan brothers, who have been through a lot of big games,” Boals said. “You can just see the poise of those two and hats off to them for making big plays.”
Redshirt-sophomore guard Andrew Garcia led Stony Brook with a team-high 14 points off the bench. Redshirt-junior guard Akwasi Yeboah and Latimer each scored 10 points apiece, with the former fouling out with 6:23 left in the game.
The Seawolves had control early in the contest, taking an eight-point lead with 8:37 left in the first half. The Catamounts responded with a 34-7 run that spanned well into the second half to take a lead they would never relinquish.
“We fouled them a lot and they got to the line early and often,” Garcia said. “They were in the bonus early and we had a lot of fastbreaks and careless turnovers, and that’s not us. Tough calls from the ref too, a lot of key players had foul trouble early.”
Yeboah, sophomore center Jeff Otchere, sophomore forward Elijah Olaniyi and senior guard Jaron Cornish all picked up two personal fouls in the first half, with Yeboah and Otchere both fouling out late in the second half.
Stony Brook now sits in second place in the America East conference standings while Vermont takes over sole possession of first place. The Seawolves will take on the reigning America East champions in the UMBC Retrievers on Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.