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Vermont Catamounts go 1-1 in Naismith Tip-Off with loss to Buffalo

The Vermont Catamounts dominated the court in an 85-67 win against Niagara, but fell short for the Springfield bracket championship in their game against Buffalo.

Vermont Catamounts 85, Niagara Purple Eagles 67

Two of the Catamounts' players had the chance to play in front of a hometown crowd this weekend as both Kurt Steidl and Ethan O`Day are Connecticut natives. The first half of the game was very much a back-and-forth battle between the two teams, with a halftime score of 36-35 in favor of Vermont.

Five Catamounts ended the game in double digits with Trae Bell-Haynes leading the way with a career-high 28 points, going 11-for-12 at the free throw line. Redshirt freshman Ernie Duncan rounded out with 14 points and one rebound shy of a double-double. The Connecticut natives, Steidl and O'Day brought in 13 and 12 respectively. Redshirt junior Duncan Payne was the final Catamount in double digits with 12 points, going 4-for-4 at the free throw line and was also a rebound short of a double-double.

"It was a good, hard fought game. I thought we got off to a good start in the first half," Vermont coach John Becker said.

What kept Vermont in the game and ahead of the Purple Eagles was its free throws and 3-point baskets. They shot 90.5 percent from the free throw line and hit eight of their 17 shots from beyond the arc. In comparison, Niagara only hit three of their 20 from behind the arc and managed just 66.7 percent at the free throw line.

Buffalo Bulls 77, Vermont Catamounts 71

The second day on the court wasn't as forgiving as the first for Vermont.

The Catamounts had a tough opponent to face, with Buffalo being a lot more physical than they are. With quite a few tough calls that the Catamount fans in the audience didn't agree with, Vermont saw themselves in foul trouble in both halves. Duncan fouled out of the game while both Bell-Haynes and O'Day ended the game with four fouls each.

While the loss will sting, four Catamounts managed to score in double digits. Bell-Haynes lead the way again, bringing in 15 points with Duncan just behind him with 14. Cam Ward, who was relatively quiet in their first game, picked up 11 points. Some bad looks left Steidl with only 10. O'Day didn't quite make double digits but brought in nine points and eight rebounds.

One of Vermont's problems, besides the ball just not falling, was turnovers.

"It's been a problem all year, we turn the ball over too much," Becker said. Buffalo forced them into 16 turnovers and was able to capitalize on that with 12 points.

It was a tough loss for the Catamounts, but they only have three days until they head down to Florida to play the Naismith Bracket runner-up Florida Gators.