Cleveland State ends season for men’s basketball

In their first game since losing in the America East semifinal to Stony Brook, the Catamounts lost at the buzzer to Cleveland State 63-60 in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.

Cleveland State was led by Horizon League Player of the Year Norris Cole, who had a game-high 27 points. Vermont finished the season 23-9, and was able to capture the regular season America East Conference title.

“I thought that was a great college game,” Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan said. “I give Cleveland State a lot of credit, Cole really took over the game in the second half.”

With the Cats down four after a pair of Cole free throws as time was winding down in the second half, sophomore Brendan Bald split the Viking defense and knocked down a three to make it a one-point game.

Vermont immediately fouled Cole and after hitting the free throws, the Cats had to go the length of the court with 4.4 seconds left.

Junior Matt Glass got a good look at the basket and launched what would have been a game-tying three with time expiring, but the shot rattled around and rimmed out.

“I was really proud of our effort and I wish Cleveland State the best in their next game,” Lonergan said. “It’s unfortunate that the shot didn’t drop at the end — we would have liked to get to overtime — but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Vermont was without its leading scorer, senior forward Evan Fjeld, who injured his back in the loss to Stony Brook in the America East semifinal.

A career-high 16 points and eight rebounds by junior Pat Bergmann led the Cats, and first-year Luke Apfeld fell just short of his first career double-double, scoring 11 and collecting eight rebounds.

The team’s 23 wins is the fifth-most in school history. Their NIT bid marked the seventh postseason tournament appearance for Vermont in the past nine years: four NCAA, two NIT and one CBI.

Vermont will open next season as one of eight teams in the 2011 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament Nov. 19-20 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

The other teams competing are Kentucky, Long Island, Marist, Old Dominion, Penn State, Radford and South Florida.