VERMONT 74, UMBC 50 Too many turnovers too big of a hurdle
Well-balanced attack helps Catamounts hand Retrievers 3rd loss in row
Anthony Lamb is the best player in the America East Conference. His teammates on the Vermont men’s basketball team proved Saturday that he doesn’t have to be every game.
Redshirt senior guard Everett Duncan scored a game-high 15 points and grabbed six rebounds to spark the visiting Catamounts to a 74-50 thumping of UMBC before an announced 2,004 at the UMBC Event Center in Catonsville.
Duncan was one of four Vermont players to reach double digits in scoring. He was joined by sophomore point guard Stef Smith (14 points) and redshirt junior guard Ben Shungu (11).
Lamb, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior forward who is the reigning conference Player of the Year, finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists in a solid outing, according to Retrievers coach Ryan Odom.
“He did a good job of getting rid of it and picking his spots to shoot,” Odom said. “I thought the other guys on his team did a good job of sharing the ball. They do a really good job of spacing the court. So you kind of have to pick and choose where you’re going to go in your rotation, and I think we can make some better choices the next time we play them.”
Lamb has led the Catamounts (11-6, 1-1 AEC) in scoring in eight games thus far, but only twice in the past eight. Smith had set the team high in five before Duncan took center stage Saturday. Coach John Becker was pleased to see his team rely on sources other than Lamb for points.
“He is the best player on the court every night in the league, but he doesn’t have to be our leading scorer,” Becker said. “Up until this point, he’s been shooting 20 to 30 field-goal attempts every game. He doesn’t need to shoot that many, especially if he’s going to get double teamed. He’s been a willing passer, but tonight, he really did a good job with 12 and seven. … He made the plays that we needed him to make, and that’s what your best player should do.”
Junior forward Brandon Horvath paced UMBC with 14 points, but the West River resident and Southern graduate had as many turnovers (four) as rebounds. The team slipped to 7-11 overall, dropped its third game in a row, and has opened the America East portion of its schedule with three losses for the first time since the 2014-15 season, when that squad went 0-5 at the start.
The Retrievers never led in Saturday’s game, falling quickly into an 11-1 hole in the first 4:26. But they refused to cave, ending the first half on a 9-0 run over the final 3:06 that trimmed Vermont’s halftime lead to 35-29.
UMBC opened the second half with a jumper from junior forward Daniel Akin and a three-point play from sophomore guard R.J. Eytle-Rock to shave the deficit to 35-34 just 58 seconds into the frame. But the Catamounts embarked on a 16-6 spurt to regain a 51-39 advantage.
When senior guard Ricky Council II hit a 3-pointer with 13:45 remaining to draw the Retrievers within nine, 51-42, the team responded by sinking into a scoring drought of 7:06 that included nine missed shots and four turnovers. When Eytle-Rock converted a pair of free throws with 6:39 left, Vermont had built a 61-44 cushion.
“I think part of that was due to the fact that we were turning the ball over and coming up empty,” said Odom, who was assessed a technical foul with 5:32 left in the first half for the first time since Feb. 22, 2017, when he was ejected against Stony Brook. “We had about six turnovers early in the second half in that one little stretch where they kind of ran it out again. … You could kind of see their team getting together and talk as little bit, and that’s what veterans do. We didn’t keep it going and keep the pressure on. It’s hard to do that when you turn the ball over. So it was just too many.”
The defensive display was a welcomed sight for Becker, who pointed out that the Catamounts had surrendered 81 points in a four-point loss to Stony Brook in their America East opener Thursday night and 40 points in the first half of an eventual 77-68 win at Dartmouth.
“When we’re playing well, we’re holding teams to the 50s, and we’ve got four to five guys in double figures,” he said. “That was how it went tonight. … So that was much more of Vermont basketball than our last couple of games.”