Hard game, hard loss for UVM women

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As college women’s basketball games go, Tuesday evening’s America East confrontation between Hartford and Vermont was a defensive fracas that undermined the offensive confidence on both sides.

Certainly neither offense had a good night, but that was due in large part to the defenses. It was scrappy, it was physical, it was tenacious and the referees were not about to make any brush or phantom calls.

On the Vermont side, the Catamounts found no open 3-point shots and underneath, the Hawks contested every pass, every rebound, every move. And Hartford found the going much the same at the other end of the court.

This was the kind of game that had to be decided by one defense bending just a bit; not breaking, but yielding at just the wrong time. Say, in the final minute or so of regulation.

That’s what happened, according to UVM coach Sharon Dawley, and Vermont was the team that mis-stepped, allowing “three slip-ups that we hadn’t had in the second half and that got us.”

“We gave (Diana) Delva too good of a look down low and I thought we gave ’21’ (Ilicia Mathis) two good drives,” Dawley said of the plays that led to Hartford’s last three baskets, including Delva’s rebound game-winner after Mathis went to the hoop.

Still, UVM nearly pulled out the tie. On an in-bounds from just over mid-court with 1.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Sofia Iwobi threaded a pass through — and off the hands of — a maze of defenders, giving May Kotsopoulis one final chance. Her lay-up bid, though, struck the rim on the way up. Game over.

Bottom line tonight: tough game, great effort, dismal offensive execution and some of the nastiest defense both ways.

The loss, the second of the AE season for UVM, puts the Catamounts in dire straits as far as the regular-season title and top seed for the conference tournament goes. Hartford is unbeaten and UVM must win at Hartford and get help from someone else.

In the long run, it might not matter who’s seeded No. 1. It didn’t last year, but it’s still an easier tournament path as the top seed. That path might now be closed to UVM.

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