Vermont Gets Back in the Win Column and .500 on the Year
Well, it wasn’t pretty at times, but Vermont regained their footing and took down Albany to stay in the hunt for the America East crown. Albany’s Antonio Rizzuto was hot from deep, as he knocked down six three-pointers on the night, but Vermont’s prodigal son Ben Shungu put the team on his back, dropping a career high 21 points to bring Vermont back to .500 on the year.
Despite the fact that Vermont led the entire second-half, Albany (more specifically Rizzuto) just wouldn’t go gentle into that good night. It seemed that as soon as Vermont would start to build a cushion (6-8 points), the Danes would find a way to cut the lead back down. Finally, with a minute left in regulation, Justin Mazzulla hit a big-time three to push the Catamount lead to nine (71-62) and essentially ice the game.
The game got a little chippy in the second-half as well, with both teams jawing at each other. Albany’s big star from Saturday C.J. Kelly got slapped with a technical after he shoved Robin Duncan. UMBC has arguably become Vermont’s biggest rival in recent years, but there is still plenty of history and bad blood between the Danes and Catamounts.
Telling Stats and Notes – Vermont Catamounts
Ben Shungu – *21 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 7-10 shooting
Ryan Davis – 19 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 7-14 shooting
Team – 74 points, 15 assists, 36 rebounds, 16 turnovers, 24-52 shooting, 8-21 3PT
Shungu earns the game-ball for this one and rightfully so. With Stef Smith still struggling to find his shot, Shungu has stepped up and taken on more responsibilities on the offensive side of things. Shungu continued to attack the basket all night and even found some rhythm from deep, going 2-3 from beyond the arc. With Albany hanging around all game, Shungu’s scoring production was much needed and he delivered in a big way.
Ryan Davis added a cool 19 to the stat sheet as well. This was the first time all season he’s been held under 20 points (4 games). Davis has taken immense strides in his game year-over-year and arguably even more impressive than his scoring touch has been his passing ability. The big man led the team in assists Sunday night and is currently averaging 2.3 a game – that’s quite the increase for a guy who previously had a career average of 0.4 assists a game.
Big shoutout to the unsung heroes of this one as well. Justin Mazzulla hit some huge threes when the Cats needed it most and was his typical vibrant self all game. Isaiah Powell didn’t put huge scoring numbers, but he paced the team in rebounding and was constantly doing the dirty work all game. I’ve mentioned before that Powell has turned into a phenomenal glue-guy for the Cats, as he embodies the hard-hat lunch-pail mentality. Finally, it was great to see Duncan Demuth find his footing. Demuth finished with 7 points off the bench and hopefully he can build off this performance.
Telling Stats and Notes – Albany Great Danes
Antonio Rizzuto – 21 points, 0 assists, 0 rebounds, 1 turnover, 7-12 shooting
C.J. Kelly – 14 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 5-12 shooting
Team – 66 points, 12 assists, 25 rebounds, 12 turnovers, 24-53 shooting, 10-23 3PT
Credit to Albany they fought extremely hard and seemingly always had an answer whenever the Catamounts looked like they were about to pull away. Rizzuto was a huge reason behind the Danes ability to stay with the Cats for so long. The Italian Stallion talked a big game, as he was constantly jawing with the Cats, but actions speak louder than words. Rizzuto hit six three-pointers on the day and nearly willed the Danes to an upset sweep over the Cats.
C.J. Kelly came back down to earth after his hot-shot performance on Saturday. He still strung together a solid performance, but did foul out late in the game when the Danes needed him most. Albany’s roster is built on transfers, which can be very risky, but so far they’ve taken UMBC down to wire in each contest and upset the Cats in Burlington. They might be 1-3 in conference play, but if they can build off these performances watch out for the Danes.
Keep in mind that the Danes were also without two of their leaders in Cam Healy and Adam Lulka. It’s still unclear what timeline before they return to game-action, but neither injury appeared to be too serious so hopefully we’ll see the duo of Healy and Lulka back on the court sooner than later.
Vermont travels to Binghamton next weekend, while Albany was supposed to square off with Stony Brook, but as of this moment that game has been postponed. As much as Albany would like to play, the more rest and recovery they can give Healy and Lulka might be best for the team in the long run.
One final note – in my game preview I predicted the final score for game two to be a Vermont victory of 75-66. The actual final score was 74-66 and if not for a missed free-throw from Mazzulla at the end of the game I would’ve hit this mark perfectly. Holla at ya boy for gambling tips!