Men’s Hoop: Catamounts Battle Past UMBC 79-72

Courtesy Vermont Sports Information

Burlington – The Vermont men’s basketball team outscored UMBC 16-6 over the final four minutes of the contest to hold off the Retrievers, 79-72, and put an end to a two-game home losing streak in the process. UVM picked up its first league win at home improving to 4-2 in America East action and 12-9 overall while UMBC suffered its fifth conference defeat (1-5) and fell to 5-16 overall.

Dre Wills turned in a monster performance for the Catamounts finishing with his second double-double of the season. The junior scored 11 points, grabbed 10 boards and dished out six assists. Ernie Duncan reached double figures for the first time since Jan. 3 pumping in 13 and handing seven assists of his own.

Kurt Steidl and Ethan O’Day also reached double digits for Vermont scoring 17 and 14 points, respectively. Eight of the nine Catamounts to play found the score sheet.

Jairus Lyles led the way for UMBC finishing with 32 points, five rebounds and five assists. Rodney Elliott was the only other Retriever in double figures as he chipped in with 13.

UMBC started the contest with a pair of buckets including one from long distance courtesy of Will Darley to take an early 5-2 lead. Vermont countered with a 10-0 run of its own giving it a 12-5 edge. Steidl and Duncan both drilled 3-pointers before Nate Rohrer and Darren Payen finished buckets in the paint.

The Catamounts got out to their biggest lead of the first half (24-14) when Wills converted a fast break pass from Duncan at the 8:06 mark.

UMBC cut into the lead and got it down to four on several occasions. UVM responded as Payen and O’Day both found space inside for good finishes and that sent the Cats to the locker room with a 32-26 cushion.

Both teams caught fire in the first seven minutes of the second half. UMBC made eight of its first nine shots and tied the score at 48-apiece when Lyles got loose for a layup. The Retriever guard scored 13 points during the stretch.

The Catamounts found their own groove on the offensive end going on a 7-2 run to take a 55-50 lead with 11:06 to play. Steidl buried a three before Payen and Duncan both converted. The hot shooting continued for UVM and it was Duncan who found O’Day underneath for a dunk with a slick left-handed pass through traffic to give the Cats an eight-point edge (their biggest of the second half) with seven minutes left.

UMBC once again had an answer turning up the full court pressure, which keyed an 11-0 run vaulting the Retrievers in front, 66-63.

Just 30 second later, Steidl hit his fifth trifecta of the day to tie the game at 66 and then Rohrer corralled a missed jumper and laid it in for two to give his team a 72-67 lead. Despite some dicey free throw shooting early on, Vermont went 4-for-5 in the final thirty seconds to lock up its 18th straight victory over the Retrievers.

Up next for Vermont is a trip to Durham, N.H. for a big league matchup with New Hampshire on Wednesday. The game will be aired on ESPN3 and can also be seen on the ESPN App. Local radio coverage on ESPN 101.3 FM starts at 6:30 p.m. with AJ Kanell on the call.

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