Men’s basketball secures second place ranking with win over Maine

Coming off an important win over Albany, the Catamounts entered the game against Maine on Feb. 3 looking to keep the momentum going.

The Albany win had snapped a three-game losing streak for the Catamounts, who had previously won 12 of 13 games, and seven in a row.

In a battle for second place in the conference, Vermont was indeed able to build on that win and put on a dominant defensive effort against Maine on their way to a 64-51 win at Patrick Gymnasium.   

Feeding off of the noise and excitement of the packed crowd, the Catamounts opened the game on an 11-2 run keyed by stifling man-defense by Evan Fjeld and Garvey Young.

Forcing turnovers and scoring on the fast break was an early theme for Vermont.

Despite shooting only 23 percent from three-point range, the Catamounts were able to score 20 points off of turnovers, because of Young’s dominant defensive play.

Young did not score in the game, but his defensive play was key, and head coach Mike Lonergan couldn’t emphasize the importance of it enough.

“Our defense was great. I want to give Garvey Young a lot of credit; Not many times you see someone score zero points and have a huge impact on the game. I really thought his defense was incredible.”

Young was matched up on Maine’s top scorer, Gerald McElmore, all night and rendered McElmore completely ineffective.

McElmore shot only 2-10 from the field with just five points.

Marqus Blakely led the Catamounts in scoring and rebounding — 22 points, 10 rebounds — and stole the spotlight with a signature dunk on the fast break over a Maine defender, drawing the foul and causing the crowd to erupt in a thunderous roar.

Blakely indicated that work still needs to be done, but playing good defensive basketball always gives you a chance to win.

“We have to get everyone on the same page, but it definitely helps when the crowd is behind you and defensively we are playing well, which we did tonight,” Blakely said.

Evan Fjeld contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds, and the guard combination of Nick Veir and Joey Accaoui recorded 10 points, nine assists and only two turnovers.

The victory for Vermont vaults them into second place in the America East Conference and Coach Lonergan acknowledged that from this point forward, every game is critical for seeding in the conference tournament.

“This is a big win for us,” Lonergan said.

“For seeding when the tournament comes along, we are going to be fighting for first, second or third place and to be able to sweep Maine, one of the better teams, is huge for us.”