Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
BURLINGTON – The Vermont Catamounts started the 2017 calendar year off with an 82-71 win over Harvard on Monday night in the non-conference finale. Redshirt senior Darren Payen scored a career-high 21 points to lead three Catamounts in double figures.
Vermont improves to 10-5 on the season and 5-1 at home. With the hottest 15-game start under head coach John Becker, the 2016 squad becomes only the fourth UVM team to win 10 games during non-conference play since 1980-81 and first since the 2009-10 season. Harvard falls to 6-5 and the loss snaps a five-game winning streak.
The green and gold notched 44 points in the paint and also won the turnover battle (14-7). Harvard’s Siyani Chambers came into the night ranked seventh in the country with 7.1 assists per game, but the Cats held the senior to only four assists on the night. UVM also shut down one of the top three-point shooters in the country. Corey Johnson was shooting 43.9% from long distance, but was held to only one field goal attempt all night but Vermont’s tenacious defense.
Payen reached his new career-high on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor and made 7-of-8 trips to the line. The 6-8 forward also came down with a game-high six rebounds and swatted away two shots. Kurt Steidl followed with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including nine points from beyond the arc. Steidl only needs seven more points to become the 35th member of the 1,000-career point club. Anthony Lamb added 14 points and four rebounds and Dre Wills had a solid outing for the Cats with nine points.
Harvard had a pair of 16-point outings from Bryce Aiken and Chris Lewis. Aiken scored 14 points in the first half, but UVM’s defense shut him down for only two points in the second half. Lewis finished the night with a team-high four rebounds to compliment his 16 points.
The two teams battled in the opening minutes as neither one gave an inch but the Catamounts started to gain separation before the 16-minute mark. Ernie Duncan sank a three-pointer from the corner and Lamb knocked down back-to-back jumpers which capped off a 7-0 run to give UVM a 13-6 advantage.
Harvard mounted a comeback and took its first lead of the night at 25-24 with seven minutes left in the opening half, but Drew Urquhart answered on the other end of the floor. After his attempt initially hit back iron, the junior forward’s jumper bounced around the rim and dropped in for the score. Urquhart’s bucket sparked a quick 6-0 run and UVM ran into locker room four minutes later with a 36-33 lead.
The Crimson opened the second half with a 5-0 run to take a 38-36 lead, but Duncan countered with a jumper from the foul line to even the score. Harvard ‘s Zena Edosomwan scored four quick points but Vermont mounted a 17-2 run to jump out in front 55-44 at the 11:53 mark.
With five minutes left in the game, Harvard trimmed the deficit to 63-58 behind an 8-0 run but UVM would not let the Crimson get any closer. The Cats capped off the non-conference finale with a 24-8 run in the final 3:40.
Vermont tips-off America East play on Thursday (Jan. 5) at Maine. Action gets underway at 7 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine. The game will be streamed on ESPN3 and the watchESPN app by logging in with your cable provider.