Nobody Circles the Wagons like the Vermont Catamounts
Another weekend series in the books and another sweep for the Catamounts. After hanging 88 points in another blowout victory over the “best” America East defense, Vermont now sits at 7-3 on the year and one game back of UMBC for first place in the America East. Maine played better in game two, but this game was never in doubt for the Catamounts, who easily cruised to another landslide victory over the Black Bears, 88-60.
Vermont has now won five straight and look like the Cats of old, as their margin of victory over their last four games is a remarkable 29.8 points. Granted, the Cats last two series match-ups have come against “lower-tier” teams in Binghamton and Maine, but scourging a team(s) to that extent is no small feat, as the Cats confidence meter has to be the highest it’s been all season.
Along with the Cats fifth straight victory, we were also treated to one of the more heart-warming stories of the season. Justin Mazzulla had one his most memorable performances, as dropped a career-high 23 points off 7-9 shooting from the field. An emotional Mazzulla later revealed in his post-game press conference that his father had passed away and had wished he could’ve been there to see this game. Mazzulla did his best to contain a professional composure during the interview, though it was clear that this game will forever hold a special place in his heart. Get this man a game ball.
Telling Stats and Notes – Vermont Catamounts
Justin Mazzulla – 23 points, 7-9 FG, 2-3 3PT, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers
Ryan Davis – 17 points, 6-11 FG, 1-2 3PT, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 turnovers
Team – 88 points, 29-50 FG, 10-20 3PT, 36 rebounds, 17 assists, 22 turnovers
We just briefly touched on Mazzulla’s impact in the game, but it shouldn’t be understated just how efficient the senior guard was all afternoon. 7-9 from the field and 7-7 from the stripe, while also adding in work on the defensive side with a block and steal to boot. Mazzulla hasn’t typically been this type of scorer for the Cats as he tends to focus his game elsewhere, yet this one will without a doubt live on for quite some time.
Elsewhere, Davis was his usual self. He might have broken the 20 point-mark or secured another double-double, but when Vermont is thrashing teams to this extent there is much reason to keep him in. Again, it was a very well-balanced attack for the Catamounts who along with Mazzulla and Davis also saw Isaiah Powell (15) and Ben Shungu (10) reach double-figures. Tomas Murphy (9) also did well in his limited time off the bench for the Cats.
Stef Smith sat this one out for the Cats, so Robin Duncan earned the start over him. As you may recall, Smith was on the receiving end of a hard foul in the latter-half of game one. Smith was seen cheering on and celebrating with his teammates from the bench in game two, so his absence was likely more of a precautionary move to give him an extra days rest before the big Hartford match-up looming.
Telling Stats and Notes – Maine Black Bears
Stephane Ingo – 15 points, 6-8 FG, 2-4 3PT, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers
Precious Okoh – 15 points, 5-12 FG, 3-7 3PT, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers
Team – 60 points, 19-35 FG, 9-27 3PT, 21 rebounds, 12 assists, 18 turnovers
Maine only lost by 28 instead of 35 so I guess that counts as improvement right? Ingo looked much better offensively in this one, but again that’s a pretty easy accomplishment when you drop a fat goose egg (zero) in game one. Defensively Ingo was nowhere to be found, as this marked the first game all season that the young forward was unable to record a block. Okoh was also able to match Ingo’s 15 points, but those numbers mean a whole lot of nothing when your team is getting absolutely hosed.
One of the most interesting and outlier statistics you’ll ever see is that Maine actually won the turnover battle against Vermont (18-20), but still lost by 28 points. That’s one of those stats that makes zero sense and makes you wonder just how worse it could have been for the Black Bears had Vermont only committed around their average of 12-14 turnovers.
The Catamounts travel to Hartford next weekend in what will be the biggest match-up of the weekend in the America East, but don’t forget to tune into my personally favorite match-up, Maine vs Binghamton. What happens when a moveable object meets a stopable force? Expect to hear Dickie V on the call for that one.