VER­MONT 74, UMBC 50 Too many turnovers too big of a hur­dle

Well-bal­anced at­tack helps Cata­mounts hand Retriev­ers 3rd loss in row

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Ed­ward Lee

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.”

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