Cats Blow an 18 Point Lead and Fall to the Danes
This one hurts. The Catamounts came firing out of the gate and looked unstoppable as they cruised to an 18 point lead in the first-half. And then it all came crashing down. Albany slowly, yet surely crept back into the game, as Vermont just couldn’t produce any sort of offense in the second-half. Albany out-scored Vermont 41-24 in the second-half and would go on to ultimately win the game, 63-62.
For all their miscues and poor shooting, the Catamounts did have a chance late to win the game. Similar to last week’s wild double-overtime thriller against NJIT where the last play was just a chaotic mess – this game saw an eerily similar situation.
The Cats have the ball under their own baseline and need to travel the length of the court in 7 seconds. Isaiah Powell is throwing the ball in. Now, I’m not sure what the play that was drawn up was supposed to happen like this, but it almost worked. Justin Mazzulla, Stef Smith and Ben Shungu are all around mid-court with their opposing defenders right on them. None of them are making much of a move or getting any separation. With the in-bound pass violation about to go off, Powell heaves a jump ball towards Mazzulla. With defenders draped all over him, all Mazzulla can do is try to get a hand up to deflect the ball away from an Albany player. The play looks like a mess from the start and that the Cats won’t even have an opportunity to get a shot off. Somehow the ball gets tipped back into Powell’s hands who had run over to fight for the loose ball. With about 3.5 seconds left he sprints from mid-court towards the basket and throws up a decent looking attempt to beat the buzzer. Sadly, it was just a little too strong, as he bounced off the backboard and the Cats dropped one of their worst losses in recent years.
Telling Stats and Notes – Vermont Catamounts
Ryan Davis – 21 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 fouls, 9-16 shooting
Isaiah Powell – 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 fouls, 5-7 shooting
Team – 62 points, 23-58 shooting, 10-29 3PT, 35 rebounds, 14 assists, 15 turnovers
Let’s start with the good. Ryan Davis is phenomenal. This marked his third straight game with 20+ points and his first double-double on the season. He’s the centerpiece of the team on offense and is a certified three-level scorer.
Powell is quietly having by far his best season as a Catamount. It’s been quite the journey for the big man. When he first arrived he was hit with sky-high expectations as the next Anthony Lamb. The following year he battled even more adversity, as he sat out half the year to red-shirt, but was forced back into action due to injuries and lost his extra year of eligibility for nothing. But now five games into the new season, Powell has started every game and been the perfect glue guy. Kudus to Powell for doing the dirty work on both ends. The Cats might be 2-3, but Powell has done his part to ensure the Cats are in every game.
Ok, now onto the bad. Stef Smith played 35 minutes, but was largely invisible throughout the entire game. He had 5 points off 2-9 shooting and didn’t add much value elsewhere either. He didn’t look like the confident player we all know and expect Smith to be night-in and night-out. While Smith’s play has been inconsistent at times this year, I still fully expect him to bounce back in a big way against Albany in game two because that’s what great players do.
However, even more disconcerting than Smith’s play was the bench production for the Cats. Depth was supposed to be Vermont’s greatest asset this year, but so far there’s been very little to get excited about. Nick Fiorillo has been a pleasant surprise, but he’s not ready to play 15+ minutes a game in a 6th man esque role just yet. Robin Duncan and Aaron Deloney played a combined 29 minutes and finished 0-6 from the field with a lot of zeros next to their names. Duncan in particular has really struggled this year. Through five games, Duncan is shooting 17.4% and not adding enough value elsewhere to merit around 20 minutes a game.
The good, the bad and now the ugly. Bailey Patella left the game in first-half due to injury. It didn’t look too severe, but his status for game two is unclear. Vermont also gave up another career high scoring night, this time to C.J. Kelly. That’s now three different players from three different teams each going off for a career high against Vermont. Sigh.
Telling Stats and Notes – Albany Great Danes
C.J. Kelly – 27 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 fouls, 8-17 shooting
Jarvis Doles – 10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 fouls, 5-6 shooting
Team – 63 points, 23-49 shooting, 5-18 3PT, 31 rebounds, 9 assists, 13 turnovers
Here’s how this write-up should’ve gone – Albany fought hard, but too many injuries and not enough talent was too much for the Danes, as Vermont controlled the game from start to finish. And here’s what really happened – Despite a lack of talent due to injuries, the Great Danes stormed back from an 18 point deficit to upset Vermont and snap their nine game losing streak to their old conference rival.
Kelly had quite the night for the Danes. He set a new career high of 27 points, as Vermont had seemingly no answer for him. Again, this is now the third player from as many teams that Vermont has allowed to go off for a new career high. Hopefully that trend ends now.
Obviously the second-half was when Albany flipped the switch. With around 13 minutes left Vermont led by 14. Over the next seven minutes, Albany would go on a 21-3 run and lead by four with six minutes remaining. It was back-and-forth till the final whistle, but the Danes had already done the unthinkable.
This was a huge win for Albany and one that Will Brown won’t soon forget. Coming back from an 18 point deficit is an extraordinary feat. It was a tale of two halves for both teams, but now the question is which team will show up this afternoon? Will the Danes look hapless like their first-half showing or will they come out with reckless abandonment like the latter part of the second-half? Same goes for the Catamounts. They look like a complete team for about 25-30 minutes a game, but those other moments are what’s absolutely killing them. Tune to ESPN+ at 4pm today to find out.