Men’s basketball prevails in ESPN BracketBuster game

The men’s basketball team defeated Fairfield University 77-67 at home on Feb. 20 in ESPN’s annual BracketBuster series at Patrick Gymnasium.

The BracketBusters match up mid-major teams from across the country that are in the hunt for a NCAA tournament bid. The teams play for a strengthened resumé come March Madness time, and get the opportunity to be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

The  Catamounts led 33-26 at the half with eight points from junior Evan Fjeld and seven from senior Maurice Joseph. The non-conference nature of the game was evident, as there were eight lead changes in the opening 20 minutes of play as each team tried to familiarize themselves with each other’s style of play.

Vermont (21-8) led by as many as 14 points early in the second half before allowing Fairfield (18-9) to battle back with a 12-3 run that cut the Catamounts’ lead to one point with just under five minutes to play.

 Vermont responded with a run of their own though, scoring the next 10 points to pull away for good and seal the game.

 Fjeld led four Catamounts in double figures scoring 17 points and eight rebounds, while Blakely recorded 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

“That was a good game, a fun game to coach and play in with two very good teams,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Our guys did a good job defensively the whole game and finally made some 3-pointers in the second half.”

Another key for the Catamounts’ offensive game was the breakout performance of Nick Veir, who scored 14 points and shot 4-5 from beyond the 3-point line.

“I’ve been a streaky player all my life,” Veir said with a grin. “But I got the first two [3-pointers] to go and the third one was a heat check, but I just felt good coming out of the half.”

The balance of the offensive attack for the Catamounts was evident, with four players in double figures and bench players providing solid minutes when they were called on.

“Having Nick break out and hit some shots really helped us,” Lonergan said. “It makes it much easier for us to win and, when you look at the stat sheet and see four scorers in double figures, that’s great to see.”

The Catamounts were able to increase their winning streak to seven with the victory over Fairfield.

While winning the ESPN BracketBuster game is a step forward the only way that they will be in the real bracket come March is by winning their conference tournament which will begin March 4 in Hartford, Conn.