Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
BURLINGTON – The Vermont men’s basketball team never trailed, scored 90+ points for the fifth time this season and dispatched of a pesky Maine squad, 99-82, in the America East Quarterfinals Wednesday night at Patrick Gym. For the eighth straight season, the Catamounts have won 20 games and head into Monday night’s semifinal with a 20-12 overall record. Maine finishes the season at 8-22.
Cam Ward matched a career-high with 24 points and hit six three pointers for the second time this season. Ward drilled five triples in the first half including one from halfcourt as the halftime buzzer sounded. Ethan O’Day posted a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds to go along with five assists and five blocks in 32 minutes of action. Kurt Steidl finished with 14 points while Ernie Duncan and Trae Bell-Haynes each chipped in with 11.
Issac Vann led all scorers with 26 points to pace a pair of Black Bears in double figures. Aaron Calixte tallied 17 points and connected on a trio of three pointers.
The Catamounts got off to a fast start jumping out to an early 13-4 lead fueled by two of Ward’s six long balls. An old-fashioned three-point play from O’Day gave UVM its first double-digit lead at the 14:41 mark of the first half (16-6).
Maine got to within six on several occasions just two minutes later but a slashing layup and a pullup jumper from Steidl pushed the lead back to 10 with 8:58 left. Steidl then capped an 11-3 run with his second three-pointer of the night to extend the Vermont lead to 44-26 and force Maine to burn a timeout.
A Till Gloger layup brought Maine back to within 13 with 2:31 left but Ward’s long-range heroics to close the first half gave UVM a 19-point cushion heading into the locker room.
UVM’s 58 first-half points were a season-high as the No. 3 Catamounts drained 9-of-13 from beyond the arc.
Vann got Maine going in the second half, scoring 15 of his 26 after halftime. Lavar Harewood knocked down a pair from the line to cut the Vermont lead to 13 after it had ballooned to 24 early in the half. The Cats answered with a 7-0 run of their own highlighted by two Bell-Haynes drives to the rim and a Steidl put-back dunk to push the lead back to twenty with under four minutes to play.
Vermont has now won seven straight games in the quarterfinal round of the America East Tournament and advances to the semifinals for the 14th time in the last 15 years.
Vermont’s quest for a sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament continues on Monday night in the America East Semifinals against No. 4 seed New Hampshire. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. from Patrick Gym and all the action can be seen on ESPN3 and the ESPN App. Local radio coverage begins at 7 on ESPN 101.3 FM with AJ Kanell and Bernie Cieplicki on the call.
Ticket information about Monday’s semifinal will be released Thursday morning.