Men’s basketball nearly falters, pushes ahead for win in overtime

The men’s basketball team extended their winning streak to five games after defeating New Hampshire in overtime, 85-76, at a sold-out Patrick Gymnasium on Feb. 14.

Marqus Blakely finished the game with 22 points and eight rebounds after recording only four points and one rebound in the first half.

Evan Fjeld scored a career high, shooting 70 percent from the field, totaling 22 points and hauling in nine rebounds.

The Catamounts appeared to be in control late in the second half when they had a 12 point lead with a mere 4:06 left in regulation. But a 14-2 run by New Hampshire tied the game with 32 seconds left. 

The Catamounts had three shots at the end of regulation but were unable to convert, forcing the game into overtime. In overtime, Vermont went on a 7-0 run to take an 80-72 lead with 32 seconds left.

After scoring only 12 points in regulation, Blakely scored 10 in overtime highlighted by an alley-oop dunk that caused the building to erupt while sealing the game.

“That was a big game for us,” head coach Mike Lonergan said.

“It would have been a devastating loss, being up by that much. I am happy we won. I just wish it was a little bit easier for us … but we’ll take it.”

A key for the team was converting on the amount of free-throw opportunities in the game. The team went 40-55 (73 percent) from the line, including 9-11 in the extra period.

“We got to the line a lot, and we made our free throws,” Lonergan said. “That’s really the story of our year.”

Blakely played limited minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, which enabled Fjeld to step up and make contributions on both ends of the court.    

“Everybody stepped up,” Blakely said. “Evan had a huge game, with 22 points and nine rebounds, leading our team in steals and blocks. It’s a huge night out of him.”

When Blakely went to the bench after picking up his second foul midway through the second half, Fjeld recognized the need to step up.

“My team needs me to do that, especially when Marqus has two fouls in the first half,” Fjeld said.

“We needed to find some scoring and I was able to get to the line as well as get some buckets in the post. If that’s what my team needs me to do, then I have the confidence to do that.”