Basketball season ends on high note

A historic season has come to an end for men’s basketball.

The 2016-17 season saw the team break numerous records.

UVM set a new program record for overall wins with 29, including a 21-game win streak stretching Dec. 29 to March 11.

This streak included a 16-0 record in America East, the first time in conference history that a team posted a 16-0 record, and only the third unbeaten season in America East history.

The Catamounts swept the America East individual awards as well.

Head coach John Becker was named Coach of the Year; senior guard/forward Dre Wills was named Defensive Player of the Year, senior forward Darren Payen was named Sixth Man of the Year, first-year forward Anthony Lamb was named Rookie of the Year and junior guard Trae Bell-Haynes was named Player of the Year.

The streak, the longest in the nation when it ended, saw its climax in the America East Tournament.

The Catamounts defeated the University of Maine 86-41 in the quarterfinal round, earning a spot in the semifinals.

There, they defeated the University of New Hampshire Wildcats 74-41 to punch their ticket to the America East Championship game, which they would host as the highest remaining seed.

There, the Catamounts met the University at Albany, and despite the visitors’ best efforts, the Catamounts were not to be denied. Vermont edged the visitors 56-53 to win the America East Tournament and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The Cats then travelled to Milwaukee, Wis. for their first-round matchup against Purdue University, where the Boilermakers secured a 80-70 win, led by their star forward, Caleb Swanigan.

Bell-Haynes said the winning streak stood out as a highlight for the season.

“I think the 21 games definitely stand out, but the 19-0 [in conference play] specifically,” he said. “You see teams twice, and we saw some teams three times, and we were able to figure them out each time.”

Becker said the team performed above expectations this season, and credited the team’s mentality.

“I believe we exceeded our goals; to do that is really difficult,” he said. “It’s a credit to the coaches and it’s a credit to the players, and the focus, drive and determination they’ve had is just amazing.”

Becker admired the way his team played against tough non-conference teams, he said.

“We went toe-to-toe with the best team in the Big Ten,” Becker said. “Just like how I felt when we played Butler, the second place team in the Big East; it wasn’t trying slow the game down and trying to hope they missed shots, we played those teams.”

The Catamounts finished the season with a record of 29-6, with defense as their calling card. The Cats were No. 12 in the nation in scoring defense, according to the NCAA.