UVM chokes in America East semifinal

The UVM men’s basketball team — defending champs of the America East Conference — were held to season lows in both field goal percentage and points in the America East Conference Tournament semifinals, as they lost to the fifth seed Stony Brook Sea Wolves 69-47.

Instead of moving on to the conference championship — which would have been held in Patrick Gym had the Catamounts beaten Stony Brook — UVM will have to settle with a postseason birth in the National Invitational Tournament.

Despite a gritty performance by first year Brian Voelkel — who recorded 12 points and eight rebounds — Vermont was never able to gain a lead over Stony Brook.

The Sea Wolves, who entered the conference tournament with a mere 8-8 record within the America East, was able to stifle Vermont’s offense to just 31.8 percent shooting from the field.

“We played poorly,” Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Anytime you make 14 baskets — 14 for 44 — you really don’t deserve to win. So, it was just not a good performance by us, but I give Stony Brook all the credit in the world. They did a great job.”

The first half set the tone for the entire game, as Vermont was held to just 28.6 percent shooting while Stony Brook shot close to 45 percent.

“It is a good win for them and, unfortunately it’s a bad time for us to play poorly,” Lonergan said. “We gotta bounce back and hopefully have a good week of practice and get ready for the NIT.”

As the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, the NIT was hardly the goal for the Catamounts, who entered the game with a 23-7 record.

The UVM seniors — Evan Fjeld, Joey Accaoui and Garret Kissel — combined for just 16 points, 13 rebounds and four assists while shooting just 5-13 from the field.

“Not my night I guess,” Fjeld, who was limited by an ankle injury, said. “Even when I wasn’t in foul trouble and wasn’t hurt, I didn’t play very well. It wasn’t an ideal time to have a game like that in my senior year.”

The reliance on a select few seemed to hurt the Catamounts when the main scorers were not able to produce. There wasn’t a UVM player who was able to step up and take control of the game when it truly mattered.

“We had to rely on some other guys to score for us, and they just couldn’t get the job done,” Lonergan said. “It’s disappointing for us.”

Along with the poor shooting performance, the Catamounts turned over the basketball 16 times.

Stony Brook’s Leonard Hayes recorded 20 points and six rebounds, and Chris Martin added 14 points.

Despite the screeching halt to UVM’s hopes at reaching the NCAA tournament, the Catamounts look to make a deep run in the NIT, which coincides with the NCAA tournament in mid-March.