Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
ESTERO, Fla. – The Vermont Catamounts overcame an 11-point halftime deficit in the second half and held the lead in the final seconds, but suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the Gulf Coast Showcase (GCS) title game to American Conference power Houston on Wednesday night. The Cougars dropped in a game-winning layup as time expired to hand Vermont a 72-71 loss at Germain Arena.
Vermont falls to 5-2 on the season and Houston improves to 4-0 with the championship victory.
UVM sank a season-high 14 attempts from beyond the arc, including nine in the second half. Houston tallied 44 points in the paint and scored 21 second chance points while shooting 48.3% (29-of-60) from the floor.
The Catamounts had four players record double figures as Ernie Duncan led the team with 17 points. Duncan, a GCS All-Tournament Team selection, shot 5-of-12 from the field and dished three assists. The redshirt sophomore averaged 18.3 points per game and shot 57.1% (12-for-21) from long distance in the three-game tournament.
Kurt Steidl came on strong for UVM with 16 points and matched Duncan with four three-pointers. The senior finished second on the team with five rebounds and posted a pair of assists. Trae Bell-Haynes added 14 points, including 11 in the second half. Payton Henson contributed 11 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Houston had three players record double digits as GCS All-Tournament honoree Rob Gray set a game-high with 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Gray was hot in the second half with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor. Danrad Knowles followed with 11 points and Devin Davis added 10 points for the Cougars.
The championship match saw 16 lead changes as the two squads traded buckets through the first 13 minutes. Leading 21-20 with seven minutes to go before the break, the Cougars went on a 16-6 run and held a 37-26 advantage at halftime.
UVM continued to claw back into the game in the second half and trimmed the deficit to 57-55 at the 10:33 mark. Once again, the teams traded baskets before the Catamounts retook the lead at 64-63 with a pair of free throws from Steidl under five minutes to go in the game.
With 3:23 left on the clock, Bell-Haynes hit a runner in the paint to put the Cats up 69-67. Two possessions later, Duncan nailed a three-pointer from the top of the arc to give UVM a four-point advantage.
In the final minute, the Cougars answered with a three-pointer of their own to draw within 70-69 and then won the game with a buzzer-beating layup. After getting an in-bounds pass, Dotson crossed midcourt and drove into the paint and then bounced a pass to Devin Davis, who took one dribble and floated the game-winner into the net as time expired.
Vermont returns home on Saturday (Nov. 26) to host Yale on the hardwood of Patrick Gym at 1 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase atUVMathletics.com/Tickets or at the Patrick Gymnasium Box Office on gameday. All UVM men’s basketball games can be heard on ESPN 101.3 FM and online at 1013ESPN.com with Sam Hyman on the call. Free live video is available in HD at AmericaEast.TV.