When the Hartford Hawks and Vermont Catamounts get together, you know it's going to be an interesting game. While Vermont will deny the idea of being a rival of Hartford's, there's very much an established animosity between the two teams and that was on full display on Saturday.
Hartford's first home game of the conference season didn't quite start out the way they wanted. Vermont was able to shoot off nine points before Hartford even got points on the board. Senior Ethan O`Day made himself very noticeable on the court, scoring six of the first nine. Playing in his home state, he had the comfort of family and friends cheering him on. By the final whistle, he not only reached a new career high of 24 points, but his last rebound of the game pushed him to the 500 mark. Overall, Day is currently one of only thirteen players in Vermont history to have both 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
"Ethan did a great job of establishing himself," Becker said after the game. "He's just too good of a player, and too important for us, not to play like he did tonight every night... I was really proud of him."
While O'Day had one of his best nights, Hartford was clawing away, trying to keep the Catamounts at bay, or at least cut their lead down to single digits. It wasn't until the final six minutes that Hartford started to heat up from the floor. Hartford's go-to man, Cleveland "Pancake" Thomas hit four contested three point shots in a row to give Hartford their first and only lead of the night at 42-39.
Pancake held the team together through that first half and was a solid player throughout the game. He only hit those four threes, but went 10 for 21 from the field giving him a game high of 29 points. Vermont's O'Day even commented that Pancake was "amazing in the first half."
All told, the turning point for Vermont was when Cam Ward stepped up his game in the second half. He was tentative in the first half, scoring only two points while causing three turnovers. "The second half he came out and he played. A totally different player." Becker said. Ward was able to rectify his first half performance with 15 more points, and three more rebounds.
But this wasn't just a game for them, Trey Bell-Haynes went down with a nasty looking ankle injury that kept him out of the rest of the game, and possibly for future games. That was when Becker had to resort to his short bench for help. Already missing Dre Wills due to a suspension, taking Bell-Haynes out of the equation meant he was missing two of his better players. Freshman Everette Duncan was put in and definitely made a mark.
"Everett Duncan stepped up tonight, had his best game," Becker said. "[He] knocked down a bunch of threes, knocked down free throws, got three rebounds, and that was huge."
Both teams have a short turn around time, both having games on Monday. Hartford will battle undefeated Stony Brook in a 1pm game, while Vermont hosts UMass Lowell later in the evening.