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The No. 1 seeded Catamounts made their way into the America East final with two resounding wins in front of sold out crowds at Patrick Gym.
Vermont kicked off their America East Playoffs with a convincing win against the No. 8 seeded University of Maine March 1.
The Cats put on an excellent performance on Wednesday night, defeating the Blackbears 86-41.
Four Vermont players reached double digits in points, with Rookie of the Year forward Anthony Lamb leading the way with 23 points. Lamb was perfect from the floor, shooting 10-10 on two point field goals, and 2-2 from three.
Other notable performances came from recently-named Player of the Year, junior guard Trae Bell-Haynes, Sixth Man of the Year, redshirt senior forward Darren Payen, and Defensive Player of the Year, senior guard Dre Wills.
Coming into the matchup, the Cats were fully aware of the Blackbears’ depleted roster.
“Obviously the Maine team that came in today was a little depleted recently,” head coach John Becker said, “but we knew they would fight hard and give us a battle, and they certainly did that.”
Solid play on both ends of the floor lead the Catamounts to a 29-point halftime lead. Defensively, the Cats forced a total of 16 turnovers and held Maine to 32 percent shooting.
“We have been playing really good defense all year, and that is kind of what we are about, and what we really work mostly everyday,” Becker said. “We have a lot of pride on that end of the court. We have a system, and guys are really bought into it.”
Team chemistry was another highlight of the game for the Catamounts. They were able to distribute the ball really well, totaling 20 assists for the night.
“We shared the ball, shared it really well tonight, and didn’t turn it over,” Becker said.
As a defensive catalyst and a force driving to the basket, Dre Wills stuffed the stat sheet, adding 13 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
“We have got to move on to our next opponent, whoever that is and we got 40 minutes to play hard that game,” he said.
Becker was able to play almost everyone on the roster, and relied on the bench players to finish off the game in the last seven minutes. The starters were able to rest and cheer their teammates on from the sidelines.
“As a team we are getting closer and we are playing together and better defensively each and every game,” Lamb said. “Every time we step on the court we are working on it and we are trying to push ourselves each practice so we can get to that next level.”
The Catamounts were on top of their game once again March 6, as they defeated the University of New Hampshire 74-41.
This win extended Vermont’s winning streak to 20 games – the best winning streak in the country.
Lamb lead the game with 24 points, including six three-pointers. Redshirt junior forward Payton Henson and senior guard Dre Wills reached double digits too, scoring 14 and 12 points respectively.
Vermont were also impressive defensively, limiting junior forward Tanner Leissner to only four points. His average this season was 17.5 points per game.
“From the get-go, our defense was absolutely tremendous,” Henson said. “It was just a really great effort in the defensive end.”
Becker was impressed with his team, and even a little surprised at the dominant performance.
“I never think you’d expect this type of victory in a semifinal game against a good team,” Becker said. “But I expected us to play well tonight, and I expect us to play well Saturday.”
The No. 3 seeded University of Albany defeated the No. 2 seeded Stony Brook 63-56 to advance to the America East final.
The Catamounts will host the Albany for the America East title March 11 at 11a.m. at Patrick Gym.