Catamounts clock Concordia

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The final score — Vermont 92, Concordia 46 — is of little significance, but there is plenty to break down after the UVM’ men’s opening preseason contest at Patrick Gym. Here’s the box score.

The starting lineup — Nick Vier, Marqus Blakely, Maurice Joseph, Evan Fjeld and Garvey Young — is what I’d expect we’ll see in the early part of the regular season.

UVM coach Mike Lonergan substituted frequently, providing substantial minutes to all 12 players on the roster. Most of the players received 11-19 minutes. Lonergan said he wanted to give the new guys valuable game experience.

It was a little weird for me to cover a game without seeing Mike Trimboli on the Patrick Gym floor. Trimboli, a starter since the moment he walked on campus in 2005, was a 2,000 point scorer. The focus of my game story in the Free Press is how this year’s Catamounts plan to replace that production as well as the points Colin McIntosh contributed last season.

“I think that losing those guys were a blow to our team but we still have a lot of talented guys who can pick up that scoring,” said Maurice Joseph, who had a team-high 15 points on 4-for-7 shooting against Concordia. “I think Evan Fjeld is going to have a great year, I think I can pick up some of the scoring, and  Garvey (Young) is going to score. And obviously, Marquus (Blakely) is going to be Superman, so I think we are going to be alright.”

Blakely played only 19 minutes, tallying seven points and a team-high 12 rebounds.

Today marked the debut of UVM’s rookie class of center Ben Crenca, point guard Simeon Marsalis, forward Luke Apfeld and guard Brendan Bald.

“Brendan did a good job playing to his strengths, which is attacking the rim in transition,” Lonergan said. “I thought they all were good; none of them were great. It’s not easy, you are a little nervous coming out.

“Ben Crenca, he rebounded well, but he is a much better scorer than he showed in that game,” Lonergan added, “Maybe he had a little bit of nerves, but he is really going to be good for us.”

I inquired about the health of Apfeld, a 6-foot-8, 235 pound forward who is the most highly touted of UVM’s freshman but a player still recovering from the knee surgery he had a year ago.

“I think his health is getting there,” Lonergan said. “I just think his knee brace has been a distraction. Last week it broke and then today it broke. He’s trying so hard that he is getting out of sync. I’m really happy with him in practice; it just hasn’t carried over to the scrimmage or this game. He’s not 100 percent, but he plays so hard. If you watch him on film, every shot is contested, he dives for loose balls. He’s a better scorer than he’s shown.”

Lonergan was happy with the team’s overall performance but pointed to one area that needs improvement.

“We’re trying to get our wing players to crash the offensive boards, and Maurice and Garvey and Joey combined for a whopping one rebound.”

*****

Marsalis, a freshman point guard who will be backing up Vier, is becoming a crowd-pleaser with his smooth ball-handling and playmaking abilty. As the team’s beat writer, I’m also a big fan of his quality soundbites. He took a minute to eloquently talk about quarterbacking a UVM team with so many offensive weapons.

“It’s definitely fun out there,” Marsalis said. “I just have to work on my turnovers, not getting too ambitious with my passes. But it’s fun out there with Joey on the wing, MoJo on the wing; Luke runs extremely well. Even (Garrett) Kissell and Crenca; they are really big guys but they still run the floor extremely well. When you are at the helm of it, you break into halfcourt, there is so much stuff you can do.”

****

Concordia (5-5) also suffered an 88-55 loss at Bryant on Friday. That’s the same Bryant that fell to New Jersey Institute of Technology last season, which ended NJIT’s infamous 51-game losing streak.

“Concordia has a very good coach but that is not one of his better teams,” Lonergan said.

****

The players aren’t the only ones ironing out preseason wrinkles.

Prior to the game, UVM had planned to play the Canadian National Anthem for the benefit of Concordia, a school located in Montreal, but the wrong song was cued up on the Patrick Gym sound system. The problem was averted when the crowd began singing “O Canada.”

“I was really impressed on how well they knew the words and sang,” said Joseph, a Montreal native. “It’s too bad that the loud speakers didn’t work, but the crowd picked it up and I was happy about that.”

****

Remember to follow me on Twitter @johnfantino

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