The 21-game winning streak is over. The upset bid came up short. But no one in the UVM men's basketball locker room was hanging their heads after the thirteenth-seeded Catamounts fell to number four Purdue in Milwaukee in the NCAA tournament last night.
The Cats fought tooth and claw against the Boilermakers, trailing by just one point at half time. Freshman sensation Anthony Lamb poured in twenty points, America East player of the year Trae Bell-Haynes had 15, with Payton Henson and Ernie Duncan also hitting double figures in points, and the game was still up for grabs with less than four minutes to go, UVM trailing just 70-65.
Now, when I spoke to our sports correspondent Andy Gardiner for a preview of this match up, he said a big obstacle for the Cats would be stopping national player of the year candidate Caleb Swanigan and he did have a huge game with 16 points, and 14 rebounds, but Gardiner also said:
"Of more concern I think is defending the three point shot. These teams played at the beginning of last season at Purdue. Purdue won 107-79, making 18 three point shots. That can't happen again."
Well, Purdue certainly didn't reach that mark, but they were 9 of 20 from beyond the arc, and most of those came late in the game to help them pull away. And when I asked Andy Gardiner for a prediction of this game?
"I think Purdue will win but I think Vermont can keep it within ten."
And the final was Purdue 80, Vermont 70. I'll be speaking with Andy later this morning at 8:44 for a preview of this weekend's big division three hockey playoffs, so if he's as sage-like about pucks as he is hoops, you may want to listen in.
Another big blow to the Catamount's hopes for an upset last night was an injury to senior Kurt Steidl with less than three minutes to go in the first half when he landed awkwardly on his leg after trying to block a shot, and he did not return to the game. Still and all, the Catamounts had a fantastic season, recapturing the America East crown and giving a very strong Purdue team all they could handle in Milwaukee last night.
There were high school basketball playoffs underway last night as well as college March Madness, and at Patrick Gymnasium the CVU girls booked a return trip to the division one state finals, topping Mount Anthony 51-36 last night. The Redhawks are on familiar ground, having won four consecutive straight D-1 titles, but if they want to make it five, they'll have to beat St. Johnsbury after the Hilltoppers got a dramatic, last second buzzer beater from freshman Josie Choiniere, who ran the length of the floor and put up a floater that swished through just before the final horn sounded for a 32-30 overtime win against BFA-St. Albans. Kelly Laggis had a great game for BFA-St. Albans, with a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds for the Comets in the losing effort. Should be a great state final as St. J tries to unseat CVU Saturday at 5pm.
And in division three semi-finals, top-seeded Windsor beat number four Winooski 61-47 victory at Barre Auditorium. Olivia Rockwood scored a game high 25 points and teammate Ashleay Wilcox added 20 in the win. Lydia Nattress had a team high 15 points for Winooski in the loss.
Windsor will go on to face Thetford for the division three state title. The Panthers got 11 points from Danielle Robinson in beating Leland and Gray 43-37.
To the pros, and the Boston Bruins were hoping to finish up their western Canada road trip with a win, and extend their winning streak to five games, but perhaps with some heavy legs having played in Calgary the night before, they got walloped 7-4 by the Edmonton Oilers instead. The Bruins fell behind early 2-0 in the first period, with Patrick Maroon scoring twice, each goal coming less than a minute apart. Not a strong game for Tuukka Rask, who ended up getting pulled in the third period for Anton Khudobin, but Rask wasn't getting much help from his defense in this one. Brad Marchand scored his league-leading 37th goal for Boston, which pulled the B's to within 3-2 at the time, but too many defensive lapses ending any hopes of a comeback.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs were busy beating up on the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-0, Morgan Reilly and Matt Martin scoring just 15 seconds apart as part of a four-goal second period. With the win, the Leafs vault over Tampa Bay and the NY Islanders for the final available wild card spot and are now just four points behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic, and that's significant as the Leafs and Bruins skate against each other Monday in Toronto.
And this last note from the world of hockey, the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team — the reigning world champions — have announced that they will boycott the championships later this month as a protest against USA Hockey, citing stalled negotiations for "fair wages and equitable support" from the organization. USA Hockey paid them $1,000 a month for six months every Olympic cycle, and players say "virtually nothing" for the other 3 1/2 years. That works out to $1,500 a year. The US women have medalled in all five Olympic Games and won the world championships seven times since 2000.