Vermont falls to Albany 53-49 in America East Championship

Patrick gym overflowed with dedicated fans clad in green and gold as the mens basketball team hosted the 2013 America East Championship this morning. The game resulted in a tough loss for the Catamounts as they fell to the University of Albany Great Danes 53-49.

This marked the 34th all time meeting for the teams and the third in the leagues championship game. The two schools have combined to win seven of the last ten America East titles, five of which belonging to the Catamounts.

In his first America East Championship appearance first-year Ethan ODay got Catamount momentum going as he scored the initial points that would make up Vermonts 10-0 run in the first four minutes of play.

The Catamounts seemed on fire offensively until Albanys Mike Black shut down the run as he scored the first two points for the Danes.

Albany continued scoring over the next six minutes, unanswered by Vermont. Nine minutes in, the lead switched for the first time, as Albany inched ahead 11-10 forcing a timeout by Vermont.

Propelled by the lead change, junior Clancy Rugg stole back possession following the timeout, scoring on a behind the back layup to regain the Catamounts lead. Fouled on the play, Rugg netted another 2 from the line, which earned Vermont the 14-11 lead.

With possession, Albany ventured on an 11 point run, dominating over an uncharacteristically sluggish Catamount defense. Vermont head coach John Becker called for another timeout, as his team trailed 23-16. This season marked Beckers second as head coach.

Offensively Vermont struggled as juniors Luke Apfeld, and Brian Voelkel along side ODay attempted to make last minute shots from beyond the three-point line, only to come out empty handed. Defensively the team seemed to be lacking throughout the first half as they gave up easy baskets to the Danes, as a result earning 11 turnovers.

With 37 seconds remaining in the first half, Apfeld brought the period to its close and the fans to their feet with a morale-boosting dunk on the net. Even with the last minute confidence, Vermont still shadowed Albany 28-20 going into the half.

As a team notorious for second half surges, Vermont came out strong with the start of the second period.

ODay again earned Vermonts premier points two minutes in. Fouled on the play, ODay stood up with a noticeable limp, yet still netted another basket, bringing the score to a close 28-23 still in Albanys favor.

Over the next few minutes Vermont displayed the strength in their defense that was missing previously. However, the team still struggled from beyond the three-point line as senior Trey Blue failed to sink an attempted 3-point shot.

Five minutes in, following his layup Apfeld thrust his fist in the air, simultaneously restoring the adrenaline for Catamount fans throughout the gym.

For the next three minutes, possession flip-flopped constantly as Albany outscored Vermont 6-5. Vermont still behind 34-31, both teams entered a timeout on the floor.

With a turnover by Voelkel at the 10-minute mark, Vermont was forced back on defense, where they gave up another 3 points to the Danes.

With possession back in the hands of Vermont, Voelkel sunk his first basket of the day. ODay continued Vermonts run netting the teams second dunk of the game, which caused a frenzy amongst Vermont fans.

Following the play, a fire ignited within the men in green and white. Junior Sandro Carissimo netted 6 back-to-back baskets bringing Vermont to a 45-43 lead over the Danes. Carissimos run marked the first time Vermont outscored their opponents in the half.

The Catamounts lead was short lived as Albany answered by sinking back-to-back 3s, taking back the lead.

The crowd remained electric as Catamount fans cheered whole-heartedly for their men on the court. Vermont fought hard offensively, however with 40 seconds remaining in regular play, high-scorer Carissimo was fouled out of the game.

Fans waited on the edge of their seats as Blue carried the ball for Vermont with 15 seconds remaining.

Despite being tripped by Albany in his attempt at the basket, Blue still managed to nail another 2 points for Vermont. From the line, Blue was unable to make the shot, keeping Vermont at what would be its final score of 49 points.

With a foul from Vermont, Albany was sent to the line with a pocketed 51 points in the remaining seconds. The Danes sunk both baskets, bringing the final score to 53-49 in Albanys favor.

The loss marks the end of Vermonts season as Albany earns the conferences automatic bid to the NCAA Mens Basketball Championship. The Catamounts will wait to see if they have been invited to the College Basketball Invitational or College Insider Postseason Tournaments following the NCAA selections.