Posts Tagged ‘Mike Lonergan’

Gracious farewell

March 1, 2010

Photo by Shane Bufano

When Marqus Blakely — UVM’s strong, tough and poised basketball standout — has tears gushing from his eyes, you know it’s a poignant moment.

A week after sending off the UVM women’s star-studded senior class, the Catamount men’s program bade farewell to one of its brightest stars Sunday at Patrick Gym.

Blakely has more than 1,800 points and 1,000 rebounds. He has 156 dunks. And he’s on the brink of win his third consecutive America East Conference player of the year award. No wonder the sold-out crowd of 3,266 belted out a long ovation during a “Senior Day” ceremony to show their appreciation.

The feeling was mutual.

Shane Bufano snapped some great photos of the scene. Here’s the emotional comments from Blakely, some of his teammates and his coach after Vermont wrapped up a  22-win regular season by beating Binghamton at Patrick Gym:

Senior forward Marqus Blakely: “It didn’t really hit me until 10 minutes before the game, and I realized that all my family is here, friends, fans; literally everyone was here to see the seniors. Hopefully we will be able to come back here and play in the championship game here, but if not, it’s really been a great four years here. I wouldn’t change anything about it. Vermont is a great place, especially being a student-athlete. I just want to say thank you to all the fans, my family and friends.”

Senior guard Maurice Joseph: “It was very emotional for me. You think back at your journey, you think about the path that you took to get to this very point. Starting out at Michigan State, you think back at all the lessons coach (Tom) Izzo taught me. You think back at the transfer process, and coach (Mike) Lonergan taking a chance on me and allowing me to come here and do a lot of good things in my career. All these things go through your mind. Your family is here, your friends are here. It’s just an emotional day and I’m just happy we got a win.”

Head coach Mike Lonergan: “We have great fans. I’ve been here five years and we’ve sold out every ‘Senior Day.’ I told our guys that’s really something you should appreciate, it doesn’t happen in many places. No matter what our record is or who the opposing team is, 3,266 (fans) are here. It makes it really fun to coach here and it makes rewarding to be a player at Vermont.

“Those three seniors are special. I’m hard on them because I want to get a lot of them, I really do. I want them to leave here with no regrets.

“We get good kids here in every sport. It’s really fun to coach true student-athletes. This is a special place, so hopefully we can keep this season going.”

Sophomore guard Garvey Young: “I definitely felt a sense of pride and a sense of family with these guys to play my heart out and send them out on a good note. It was definitely motivational just seeing the support from the fans, the emotion, and just the love in the atmosphere.”

Cats’ non-league game has value

February 20, 2010

The University of Vermont’s involvement in the ESPU Bracketbuster’s today has no bearing on the America East Conference standings and the final result, in the grand scheme of things, is of little importance. But here’s a few reasons to care about the UVM men’s basketball team’s 2 p.m. contest against Fairfield …

  • This game offers fans another chance to see the Cats at home. That might not sound like much, but the Cats have played 19 of their 28 games this season on the road.
  • Fairfield is the real deal. The Stags, 18-8 overall, are tied for second place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Freshman point guard Derek Needham, the team’s leader in scoring (16.1 ppg) and assists (143), is a strong candidate for the MAAC rookie of the year. Fairfield lost 69-67 to mighty Siena two weeks ago.
  • A win today would boost the Cats’ RPI, a factor in determining postseason seedings. “If we are able to reach our goals and win our league, or even go to the NIT or another postseason tournament, it will help our RPI because Fairfield is having a great season,” UVM coach Mike Lonergan said.
  • There might only be two chances left to watch Marqus Blakely play in Patrick Gym. Three, max.

Cats survive foul fest

February 16, 2010

Here’s a few leftovers from Sunday’s UVM-New Hampshire bash, which was as physical as an NFL game and took as long to play as an MLB playoff game. My watch had the contest lasting 2 hours, 45 minutes. That’s what 64 personal fouls will do.

The Cats gutted out an overtime win in a rough-and-tumble affair that had the flow of a glacier. There were seven disqualifications and three UNH  intentional fouls were called. Vermont took 55 foul shots and sank 40, both program records.

“The referees earned their pay,” UVM coach Mike Lonergan said. “I think there could have been another 20 foul shots (for UVM). I think Marqus gets fouled almost every play. I thought Garvey (Young) took a couple good hits. I thought the officiating was good. I liked that crew. It’s a hard game to referee. New Hampshire is hard to ref. But it’s to our benefit when they call it. At New Hampshire, if you look at the film, there wasn’t a whole lot of fouls called and that’s not good for us.”

In New Hampshire’s 75-56 win over UVM last month, each team was assessed 21 personal fouls.

UNH coach Bill Herrion wasn’t pleased with the discrepancy of the calls Sunday; his team went 20-for-32 from the line. “You want to get me arrested if I say what I really want to say?” he joked before the post-game news conference.

“We are playing good basketball, we really are. I really like my team, I like the way we are playing. You look at the stat sheet and the first thing that jumps at me is, you go on the road against a team that is fighting for first place in this league and a team that has been a measuring–stick program in this league for a number of years that everyone is trying to catch in front of a packed house. And you get outscored by 20 from the free-throw line and you lose in overtime,” said Herrion, who was hit with an early technical. “That to me is really disappointing. It’s really disappointing. I’ll leave it at that.”

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New Hampshire went 11-for-18 from 3-point range in its home win over Vermont last month.  The Wildcats were 2-for-14 with the 3-ball Sunday. The reason for the discrepancy: Vermont’s perimeter defense was more energetic and effective the second time around.

Just ask Tyrone Conley, the pride of Burlington who settled for seven points on 2-for-8 shooting after racking up 21 points in the first meeting against Vermont.

“They gave a little extra attention to me this time, guarded me a little harder and tried to keep the ball out of my hands,” Conley said. “It’s always nice to come home and play in front of a home-town crowd. Unfortunately, I didn’t play all that well.”

Conley, a junior, has combined for 22 points on 5-for-22 shooting in three homecoming games at Patrick Gym.

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Sunday’s win over UNH came five days after Vermont overcame a four-point, last-minute deficit to nip Boston University on the road.

“We are winning close games this year and I give our guys a lot of credit,” Lonergan said. “Most of it is (successful) foul shooting. It’s also unselfishness on our team, where no one is trying to make a big play or be the hero. Guys are trying to execute what we call in the timeout.”

Black Bears’ climb to contention

February 2, 2010

Last season, the University of Maine men’s basketball team had a 9-21 overall record and lost in the America East tournament’s play-in game.

Then leading scorer Mark Socoby transferred.

This season, Maine is 14-7 and sits in second place in the league standings heading into Wednesday’s showdown against UVM  at Patrick Gym.

So, how did the Black Bears go from cellar-dweller to contender?

“Probably experience and team chemistry,” UVM coach Mike Lonergan said. “I always thought they had talent. I thought maybe they underachieved a little for whatever reason. But I think those guys like each other and are used to playing  with each other now. And I think (Sean) McNally and (Gerald) McLemore are two of the better players in the league. (Junior) Bernall has some weaknesses but is a pretty good point guard; he’s got good size. They are playing with confidence.”

McLemore, a sophomore guard, is averaging 14.5 ppg while McNally, a junior forward, is a double-double threat for a Maine team that opened eyes around the league by winning at Boston College on Jan. 2.

UVM grabbed a 64-56 win at Orono during the Black Bears’ league opener on Jan. 7. Marqus Blakely recorded 11 points and 13 rebounds and Maurice Joseph racked up 20 points in that game, which came in a stretch that saw the Catamounts win seven straight and 12 out of 13.

“We were playing really well then and we were on a good role,” Lonergan said. “I think the start of the second half, Marqus just went crazy; he was stealing the ball, leading our break, and he got some assists to Evan (Fjeld). Kind of like Saturday (against Albany) in the second half; we really got our fast break going.”

The third-place Catamounts (6-3 AE), who regained a little of their swagger Saturday, can take over second place with a win over the Black Bears (6-2), who slipped on Saturday with a loss to last-place UMBC.

Getting Vier back on point

February 1, 2010

University of Vermont men’s basketball coach Mike Lonergan was satisfied with Joey Accaoui’s performance during his eight-game stint as starting point guard.

But he opted to return Nick Vier to the starting role Saturday for a couple of reasons.

In order to have a successful stretch run, the Catamounts need Vier, who has been in a “funk” this season, to regain his confidence and reach his potential. Vier took a step in that direction during UVM’s runaway win over Albany on Saturday at Patrick Gym.

“Nick played one of his better games this year,” Lonergan said. “He didn’t shoot well, but he played the way we need him to play: Put defensive pressure on (Albany’s) point guard the entire game and set the tone for us defensively, which allowed Garvey (Young) to get up on his man. For the first time in a while, we didn’t allow another team’s best players to hurt us.”

Under the weight of heavy expectations, Vier’s play has been erratic this winter and he tumbled out of the starting lineup at the beginning of January.

“Joey has done a good job, but for us to reach our goals, I think we really have to have Nick be our point guard,” Lonergan said. “Joey will play minutes at the point. Joey struggles getting good shots from the point-guard position. It’s easier for him to get open shots when he plays off the ball. He got some good shots from playing on the wing (against Albany). I think it worked well.”

*****

The Catamounts learned today they will face Fairfield in the ESPNU BracketBusters’ series. The game will take place either Feb. 19 or Feb. 20 at Patrick Gym.

Vermont was one of 98 teams selected to play in the BracketBusters event, designed to give mid-major programs publicity. The Catamounts’ game against Fairfield is not one of the 11 ESPN has scheduled to televise. It’s safe to assume the Cats fell out of consideration for a TV game after their three-game losing streak.

Fairfield has a 15-7 record and is in third place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with an 8-4 mark.