Men’s Hoop: Catamounts Top UNH 63-56, Advance to America East Championship Game

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information


BURLINGTON – For the third time in the last five years, the Vermont men’s basketball team will play for the America East Championship thanks to a 63-56 win over New Hampshire in the semifinals Monday night at Patrick Gym. UVM improves to 21-12 on the season and has now won seven straight games heading into Saturday morning’s title tilt. New Hampshire closes the season at 19-12.

The Catamounts will play on Long Island against Stony Brook Saturday at 11 a.m. and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

Ethan O’Day, playing in his final home game at Patrick Gym, led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds to go along with three blocks to set the tone defensively for the Catamounts. Kurt Steidl finished with 13 points and six boards while Ernie Duncan chipped in with 11 on 4-of-5 shooting. Dre Wills did not score in the game but hauled in a team-high eight boards and dished out three assists.

Tanner Leissner played his best game against Vermont this season, finishing with a double-double of 28 points and 10 rebounds. Jaleen Smith also reached double-digits for UNH with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Vermont held UNH to 35.5% shooting (24.2% in the first half) and blocked six Wildcat shots, which all came in the first half.

Smith scored seven quick points for UNH as the Wildcats jumped out to an early 10-6 lead forcing a UVM timeout just four minutes in. The Catamounts responded as O’Day hit his first three field goal attempts to put the home team back on top, 13-12 with 11:26 to go in the half.

After the early timeout, UVM found a groove offensively and outscored New Hampshire 17-2 over the next 8:20 to take a 23-12 lead. Buried in that run was an 8-0 spurt featuring back-to-back triples and a slashing lefty runner from Duncan.

Vermont led by as many as 14 in the first half and took an 11-point lead into the break.

A back-and-forth start the second half featured both teams matching each other shot for shot before the Catamounts stretched their lead to a game-high 19 on a free throw from Cam Ward.

Leissner scored 22 of his 28 in the second half and his bucket at the 2:51 mark cut the UVM lead to nine. The Cats made enough free throws down the stretch to book an appearance in Saturday’s title game – the tenth in program history.

Vermont’s quest for a sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament continues Saturday morning on Long Island when UVM takes on Stony Brook. Tipoff is at 11 a.m. from Island Federal Credit Union Arena and all the action can be seen on ESPN2. Local radio coverage begins at 10:30 on ESPN 101.3 FM with AJ Kanell and Bernie Cieplicki on the call.

There are a limited number of seats available on a fan bus traveling to Stony Brook. Fans can register online at The day trip is $165 per person and includes transportation to Stony Brook and a ticket to the game. Deadline to register is Wednesday March, 9th by 2:00 p.m.  *Fan bus will only be able to go if there are 45 people registered.