Cats drop heartbreaker to George Mason

The pulsating crowd at Patrick Gym created vibrations that may have been felt at the top of Mansfield during Vermont men’s basketball home opener last Saturday.The impressive fan base erupted with each defensive stop and made bucket and groaned even louder when the game slipped away from the Cats in the final second, resulting in an 80-79 overtime defeat.Vermont won the opening tip and got out to an early lead after reigning American East player of the year, Marqus Blakely, crossed over his defender on the baseline and drove hard to the basket for a lay-in and Vermont’s first bucket of the year.The crowd wasted no time in showing their approval as the noise in the building echoed into a fierce roar. The Catamount defense, which migrated from man to zone frequently, was able to hold George Mason to long jumpers initially, but the team’s weakness was quickly exposed on the defensive glass. George Mason dominated by grabbing 20 offensive rebounds, 14 of which came in the second half.Junior captain Maurice Joseph made his much-anticipated debut, scoring nine first half points, including a stretch of six straight points in the first half. In the second half, Joseph, nicknamed “Mojo,” was ineffective after asking to be pulled from the game due to a reoccurring eye-issue, according to UVM head coach Mike Lonergan.”He’s had eye issues since Michigan State,” Lonergan said. “He got it scratched again a few days ago, and he’s been tearing up and having trouble seeing.” Vermont went up by 10 with 7:26 to go in the first half after a three-pointer from freshman Garvey Young. The Patriots were able to fight back into the game, relying on physical play in the paint even as the raucous crowd did their best to keep their momentum at bay. “I have to give credit to the crowd,” junior guard Nick Vier said. “Especially the students.”However, the constant turnovers and lack of defensive rebounding carried into the overtime period, which saw Blakely foul out with 3:31 left. In overtime, senior Mike Trimboli did his best to put Vermont in position to win by hitting a scoop shot under the arms of a George Mason defender off the glass. On the ensuing possession, Vermont turned the ball over on a five-second violation, giving the Patriots a chance to retake the game. After a miss, Darryl Monroe grabbed yet another offensive board, his ninth of the game, and was fouled to give him two free throws. Monroe would hit both clutch free throws to seal the game.”I thought we had the game won,” Lonergan said. “It’s disappointing but they did a good job in getting a couple of our key players out.”The disappointed crowd trickled out quietly after the valiant effort, however the Cats will need similar support when they host Yale on Nov. 18.