The Vermont Catamounts traveled over 1,500 miles to the campus of the University of Louisiana-Monroe for their semifinal game in the CBI Tournament. With an incredible home court advantage -- the court and stands filled to the brim with ULM fans -- the Catamounts were going to need some extra help if they were going to win this game.
Both Vermont and Louisiana-Monroe have seen their postseason accomplishments overshadowed by their conference winners. Albany made headlines with Peter Hooley's game-winning three to send the Great Danes to the dance and Georgia State became everyone's favorite after upsetting Baylor in the NCAA Tournament. This game was their time to shine and only one could walk away with the victory.
The Warhawks started the game with a 6-0 run, four of those points coming from Tylor Ongwae, before Kurt Steidl was able to cut their lead in half with a 3-point basket. Vermont spent most of the first half trying to figure out what to do with Louisiana-Monroe's offense, since they were dominating with buckets and boards, and how to get around their defense that kept them scoreless until their fourth basket attempt.
What kept UVM in the running was their ability to make free throws. The Catamounts brought in eight of their nine free throws in the first half while the Warhawks only made seven. While the difference is only one point, it was the timing of their missed free throws that gave Vermont the chance to catch back up. Down by six with 3:56 left in the first half, two made free throws and two quick layups tied the game for the first time. A layup and free throw from Dre Wills broke the barrier for the first time and gave Vermont a 35-33 lead going into the locker room.
Louisiana-Monroe was able to readjust for the second half and slowly got into a groove they would refuse to give up, eventually closing out a 71-65 win. Ongwae and Majok Deng finished the game with 22 points each. Add Jamaal Samuel's 14 points and you have most of the Warhawks' offense.
Vermont was able to spread the points around a bit more evenly with Wills and Steidl both scoring 11 points, but it was Ethan O`Day who stepped up to knock down 16 points, including a three at the very end of the game. While their effort was great, it just wasn't good enough to win them the game.
Coming in as one of the younger teams in the country and making the semifinals of a postseason tournament, the Catamounts will pose a huge threat to everyone else in the America East next season.