Cats take two and prepare for Stony Brook

Despite offensive struggles early in the game, Vermont stormed back to an 82-56 victory over Hartford on Feb. 4.

Sophomore point guard Sandro Carissimo had a career day, leading the team with eight rebounds, 16 points, two steals and an assist.

The win is the team’s sixth in a row and pushes their record to 15-10 and 9-2 in America East play, good for second in the conference behind Stony Brook.

After the team missed their first four shots, Carissimo hit a jumper, getting the offense in rhythm, and Vermont never looked back.

With 9:46 to go in the first half, the Cats went on a 35-0 run, pushing their lead to 40-8. Before the half, Hartford hit back-to-back three pointers, cutting the lead to 25 and sending the Cats to the locker room with a 43-18 lead.

Despite a more determined effort by Hartford in the second half, they were only able to cut the Vermont lead to 20. Vermont’s defense forced 18 total turnovers and continued to feed the offense opportunities as they scored 20 points off turnovers.

“Another big home win today against a feisty Hartford team,” said head coach John Becker. “Defense and rebounding is the staple of what we do. We are getting better at the defensive end as this year goes on.”

First-year Four McGylnn was the only other Catamount to score in double figures with 14, and sophomore Brian Voelkel contributed across the stat sheet with six points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

Coming into this game, Vermont had barely escaped Boston University with a 68-67 win on Feb. 1. Vermont held a 59-43 lead with 3:20 left in the second half, but the Terriers finished the game on a 24-9 run with Mike Terry Jr. scoring on a putback with 0.1 seconds on the clock.

The narrow victory taught the team a lesson, Becker said.

“We have a young team,” he said, “We’re still learning. We have to learn how to win close ones, but we also need to learn how to close games out.”

Vermont made it seven wins in a row on Feb. 6 with a 73-63 victory over the University of Maine at Orono. Senior Matt Glass had 17 points while junior Brendan Bald and sophomore Luke Apfeld each had 13. Voelkel added nine points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

“Huge road win tonight up here in Maine,” said Becker. “I thought our defense carried us throughout the game and we struggled a little bit offensively.”

He credited the competitive America East power in the Maine team.

“To their credit, they played hard for 40 minutes and they have some talented players,” Becker said. “We came up with stops when we needed them and anytime we can win on the road, in league, especially up here in Orono, we are very excited about that.”

The victory sets up a showdown this weekend for first place in America East when Stony Brook visits Burlington on Feb. 12. The game is at 12 p.m. in Patrick Gym and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.