Men’s Hoop: Catamounts Hang With Purdue, but fall 80-70 in NCAA Tournament Action

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information

MILWAUKEE,WIS – The 13th-seeded Vermont Catamounts closed the books on a historic season after falling to fourth-seeded Purdue with an 80-70 defeat in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the loss tonight, but I couldn’t be more proud of this team, the way they battled tonight, and just gave everything they had against a really good Purdue team,” said America East Coach of the Year John Becker. “We’ve had a great season, magical season. It hurts to have it come to an end, but I’m a proud coach with the way our guys have played all year and how they competed tonight in the NCAA Tournament.”

Anthony Lamb capped off a tremendous rookie campaign with a 20-point outing in his March Madness debut. The freshman shot 8-of-12 from the floor with nine rebounds and three steals.Trae Bell-Haynes approached a triple-double with 15 points, seven boards, and six assists. Payton Henson added 13 points and Ernie Duncan rounded out four Catamounts in double figures with 11 points.

Purdue’s Vincent Edwards notched a game-high 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting and dished out three dimes. All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan tallied his 27th double-double of the year with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

The Catamounts took the first three minutes of the game to find their rhythm as the Boilermakers jumped out to a 7-2 lead. UVM responded with a 13-2 run, including six points from Henson, and built a 15-9 advantage.

The green and gold remained on top for most of the period until P.J. Thompson drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc. Henson gave UVM a 36-35 advantage in the final minute but Thompson sank a jumper with eight ticks left on the clock for a 37-36 Boilermaker lead at the break.

Purdue used Thompson’s last-second shot to produce an 8-2 run to start the second half and stretched its lead to 45-38. The Cats clawed back near the midway point as Duncan nailed a jumper from long distance to trim the Boilermakers’ advantage to 51-50.

UVM could not get over the hump and net the equalizer as Purdue used the long ball to pad its lead to 77-65 with a minute and a half remaining in the game. The Cats cut it back to single digits after Bell-Haynes made two of three free throw attempts. The rebound from the third attempt was deflected to Duncan after a scrum in the paint, and the redshirt sophomore drilled the three-ball from beyond the arc.

The Boilermakers managed to hold off UVM’s comeback effort down the stretch and made a trio from the charity stripe for the final margin of victory.

Vermont finishes the season with a 29-6 record after setting the conference and program records for total victories. UVM had the longest winning streak (21) in the nation and captured its sixth America East Championship. The Cats also became the first team ever to sweep the league’s major awards.

Purdue survives and advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament to play the winner of No. 5 seed Iowa State and No. 12 seed Nevada on Saturday (March 18).

Thursday marked the final game for the Catamounts’ three seniors: Darren Payen, Dre Wills, and Kurt Steidl, who was injured late in the first half and did not return.