America East Semifinal Game Recap: Vermont vs Binghamton

Vermont Topples Binghamton in Route to America East Championship Game

Final Score: Vermont 74 – Binghamton 42

Good lord, what is in the water of Lake Champlain?! (Please don’t answer that).

For the second straight game, Vermont has dismantled another AE opponent by 30+ points. The Catamounts certainly kept their foot on the gas pedal, as they went on a huge second-half surge to wipe out Binghamton in the America East semifinals. Vermont now heads back to the AE championship yet again, where an old familiar foe waits for them – the UMBC Retrievers.

We’ll focus more on the next chapter of the Vermont-UMBC rivalry in the game preview, but one particular stat is just too eerie not to share. Warning, die-hard Catamount fans look away.

2017-2018 America East Championship

#2 UMBC @ #1 Vermont

Vermont sweeps regular season series winning by an average of 21.5 points

UMBC: 10-3 in last 13 conference games

Vermont: 1 loss in conference play: 1 point loss to Hartford

——

2021-2022 America East Championship

#2 UMBC @ #1 Vermont

Vermont sweeps regular season series winning by an average of 22 points

UMBC: 10-3 in last 13 conference games

Vermont: 1 loss in conference play: 1 point loss to Hartford

——

Nope. Don’t like that.

Again, we’ll break this down more in-depth later on, but for now let’s take a gander into how the Cats did in their semifinal rout of Binghamton.

The Good: 

Sheesh where to begin. Let’s start with the heart of Vermont, Ben Shungu. Big Shot Benny was in his bag Wednesday night, leading all scorers with 23 points and looking every bit like the Catamount legend he is. Simply put, to say that there have been some outstanding players to walk through the halls of UVM over the years would be the understatement of the century, but Shungu’s story might be the best of them all. A local kid who walked-on to the program, redshirted and at first appeared to be nothing more than a role-player with a feel good story has now transformed into one of the best players in the conference and has his team one game away from returning to the NCAA Tournament. Oh yeah, he also broke the 1,000 point career threshold Wednesday. Dude is that good that the 1,000 point mention came at the end of this spiel.

Second, clap it up for the defense ladies and gentlemen. Vermont limited Binghamton to a measly 42 total points (and just 15 in the second!) as the Cats put the absolute clamps on their conference rival. Those 42 points were the lowest Binghamton had scored all season and the lowest total Vermont has allowed all season – oh and did I mention this was the semifinals of the conference tournament?! Binghamton’s leading scorer, Jacob Falko, managed only 13-points on the night and no other Bearcat scored more than 7. This was the epitome of the John Becker blueprint, as the Cats put on an absolute clinic defensively.

Now, I could go on and on about this team, but lastly I want to point the spotlight on one of Vermont’s most unsung heroes, Justin Mazzulla. If you look strictly at the statsheet you’d think that Mazzulla had what many would view as a rather pedestrian game. 3 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals. Nothing flashy. But, for those who watched the game, you know that Mazzulla was freaking everywhere. Dude did not take a single play off. His hustle and determination on both ends of the floor was truly the biggest difference. Poking the ball away, diving for loose balls, setting hard screens, making the extra pass, face-guarding opposing players, the list goes on and on. Guys like Shungu and Ryan Davis often get the bulk of the shine and rightfully so, but it’s players like Mazzulla who put 110% into every little detail that truly impact the game.

The Bad: 

This is now back-to-back 30+ point routs – in the America East conference tournament nonetheless! Can you really pinpoint anything bad? Sure, the coaching staff is probably in the film room at this very second scouring the tape for aspects that could be cleaned up, but this was another damn near perfect by all accounts. 

But… (there’s always a but) I will say that the energy in Patrick Gym was pretty sub-par. Granted it was a packed house but was anyone even cheering? Earlier this week Bryant and Wagner went at it for the NEC title and there wasn’t a single person sitting down the entire game. Sure, things got a little out of hand at the end, but I’d rather see a crowd full of passionate fans who are screaming at the top of their lungs for every single possession than see one filled with lifeless fans who occasionally partake in a golf clap. Tony Patella can’t do this all by himself. Please, please, please bring that MFing ruckus to Patrick this Saturday.

The Ugly: 

How do you follow up a 39-point win in the quarterfinals? With a 32-point win in the semifinals, that’s how. Ain’t nothing ugly about that.

Next Game: Home vs UMBC (America East Championship)

Game Time: Saturday, March 12th, 11:00am (ESPN2)

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