Strong defense wins basketball games, Vermont men’s basketball coach Mike Lonergan has said — like a million times.
Tonight’s gritty, 58-57 victory at Buffalo is a prime example. The Catamounts shot 33 percent, they hit only 4 of 19 3-pointers, but they dispatched one of the better teams in the Mid-American Conference. Here’s the box score and Free Press story.
As critical as Lonergan can be when his team doesn’t play well, like Friday’s 79-66 season-opening loss at Loyola of Maryland, the coach is equally complimentary when his players are tough on the defensive end of the floor.
“I don’t think we played real well; offensively we didn’t shoot well for whatever reason,” Lonergan said, “but we definitely played a lot harder and played with more intensity than we did against Loyola.
“I give our guys a lot of credit for bouncing back from a disappointing loss and refocusing.”
Marqus Blakely had another dominating performance — 17 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks, three steals — and made a foul shot with nine seconds remaining in the contest to put Vermont ahead.
That brings us to the other star of the game, Nick Vier, a senior point guard who came up with a crucial steal on Buffalo’s next possession to seal the win. Vier finished with 12 points and no turnovers.
“We were up 10, then made some silly plays and were struggling to score; we had some turnovers,” Lonergan said “Buffalo had the momentum if it went into overtime, so that was huge that (Buffalo) didn’t get a shot off.
“I was disappointed with how (Nick) played at Loyola,” Lonergan added, “but I was really happy with the way he played tonight. He did a good job being a point guard. I’m glad Nick had a good game; he should be confident going home (at Rutgers, near his hometown of Franklin Lakes, N.J.) next weekend.”
Lonergan was also pleased with Maurice Joseph’s seven rebounds and defensive intensity.
Evan Fjeld was wacked in the mouth against a physical Buffalo squad. Later in the game, a lot more blood was drawn when he was cut underneath the eye.
It’s been a rough start for UVM’s junior forward, who mustered only four points on 2-for-10 shooting against Buffalo.
Sophomore guard Garvey Young has also struggled, not scoring any points before fouling out in both games.
Tip-ins: Here are the game stories from The Buffalo News and the Niagara Gazzette. … Blakely returned to struggling from the foul line, going 3-for-7 against Buffalo. He went 11-for-13 from the stripe Friday. … Vermont is 3-0 all-time against Buffalo; the Catamounts beat the Bulls last year in a BracketBusters’ showdown at Patrick Gym. … It doesn’t get any easier for the Cats, who play at Rutgers on Sunday and at Providence the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
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