The Vermont Cynic

Basketball hopes to avenge 2015 loss


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Vermont men’s basketball had a heartbreaking end to their 2015-2016 campaign, suffering an 80-74 loss at the hands of Stony Brook University in last year’s America East Championship, according to America East records.

“Last season was a very good season,” senior captain Kurt Steidl said, “although the loss [to Stony Brook] was tough, having been up 15 points at half-time.”

Senior guard Dre Wills echoed Steidl and said the team is motivated by last year’s season ending loss.

“It didn’t end up how we wanted it to,” Wills said. “It just added fuel to the fire.”

Last year’s team was led predominately by sophomores and juniors, all of whom remain on the team this season.

“Last season helped us mature and helped our team chemistry,” Steidl said. “This is the best team chemistry in my four years here.”

Team manager junior Derryk O’Grady has seen this chemistry up close as he watches the Catamounts practice.

“Practice has been highly competitive,” O’Grady said. “But at the end of the day, they are all unified as one.”

The Catamounts are favored to win the America East, according the pre-season rankings released by the conference.

Wills knows that with these high expectations, the Catamounts will not take anyone by surprise.

“Knowing that the target is going to be on our back, we have to come ready to play night in and night out,” Wills said.

The team has equally high expectations for themselves.

“Every year, its America East Championship or bust,” O’Grady said.

In the last five seasons, Vermont has made three appearances in the America East Championship game, winning in 2012, according to AE records.

Head coach John Becker thinks that because of the Cats’ depth, this year’s team is well-equipped to win a conference championship.

“For the first time in a couple of years, we have the depth and balance to compete for a championship again,” Becker said.

“We can go 11 or 12 players deep without much [of a] drop in talent,” Steidl said.

img_3006-2 A point of emphasis this year img_2968-2has been defense, with last season’s team ranked No.5 in the league in defense, according to AE records.

“We have a lot of guys that can score the ball, so we just have to stay together on that end of the floor and the rest will take care of itself,” Wills said.

With an evolving defense, there are new faces to incorporate into the scheme this coming winter.

Junior forward Payton Henson and junior guard/forward Josh Hearlihy both redshirted last season, but are now eligible to play this season.

Both transferred from Tulane University to join Vermont last year, according to UVM athletics.

“Josh and Payton will contribute right away,” Wills said.

Wills said that the Cats’ difficult non-conference schedule will help them when conference play begins.

“It prepares us for our league,” Wills said.

While they are scheduled to host Eastern Michigan University and Harvard University at Patrick Gym this winter, they will be traveling to compete against a few highly-rated programs.

Among these programs are Providence College, Butler University and the University of South Carolina, according to UVM athletics.

The team was also invited to participate in the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament in November.

They begin the tournament with a date against Wofford College, according to UVM athletics.

“[The schedule is] what we need, to prepare us for conference play,” Steidl said.

Among the other teams expected to succeed in the American East are the University of New Hampshire and the University of Albany, ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in preseason polls respectively, according to AE records.

The Catamounts open their season Nov. 12, in Camden, Connecticut, as they take on Quinnipiac University.

Vermont welcomes Lyndon State for their home opener Nov. 19 at Patrick Gym.

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Basketball hopes to avenge 2015 loss