Vermont deals men’s basketball season-worst margin of defeat

Patience, discipline and veteran leadership fueled Vermont’s 72-39 rout of the Binghamton men’s basketball team Sunday night in Burlington, Vt.

The Bearcats (4-16, 1-6 America East) flustered the second-place Catamounts (12-9, 6-1 AE) with their 2-3 zone early in the game, but Vermont needed just eight minutes to find its rhythm, picking apart the defense with deft ball movement and effective penetration to send the Bearcats home with a season-high fifth straight loss and season-worst margin of defeat.

“They just took us to the woodshed. They just took it to us,” BU head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “They out-toughed us. They out-experienced us. They were just clearly the better team right from the very start, and we were never really able to find any rhythm.”

While Vermont scored 28 of its 38 first-half points in the final 12 minutes leading to intermission, the Catamounts’ defense stifled a young Binghamton team from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Vermont blocked six of Binghamton’s 15 missed field goals in the first half, forced a handful of low-percentage jumpers late in the shot clock and recorded eight steals in the first 20 minutes to take a 38-13 lead into the locker room.

Binghamton converted nine of its 22 second-half field goals (40.9 percent), but still finished the game at 32.6 percent.

“The first half, I thought early, we were playing [well]. We were hustling, and then we just couldn’t get the ball in the basket,” Dempsey said. “I thought our defense let up and we were frustrated, and they just picked us apart from there.”

With sophomore forward Ethan O’Day posting a game-high 21 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting clip, Vermont boasted three double-digit scorers.

Senior guard Candon Rusin torched Binghamton from beyond the arc, burying four treys on five attempts and finishing with 16 points. Each of his treys came against the zone, as senior forward Brian Voelkel (six assists) and senior guard Sandro Carissimo (four assists) kept the Bearcats in perpetual motion with their ball movement and penetration to free Rusin on the perimeter as well as O’Day and senior forward Luke Apfeld near the rim.

Like O’Day, Apfeld did not miss from the field and scored 10 points to go with a block and a steal.

As a team, Vermont shot 57.1 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from 3-point territory. Bouts with sloppy ball control resulted in nine Vermont turnovers in the second half, but the Catamounts converted 11 of 16 shots in the final 20 minutes.

They scored 1.18 points per possession on the night, a mark they had eclipsed just three times in 20 games this year. Vermont posted a season-best 1.38 points per trip in a 91-90 loss at then-No. 8 Duke.

“They played really well. There’s no doubt about that,” Dempsey said. “They came out and they were clicking on all cylinders, and we just couldn’t score the ball for so long.”

Sophomore guard Karon Waller led Binghamton with three points in the first half. His 3-pointer at the 17:59 mark knotted the game at five, but the Bearcats would not score again until sophomore guard Jordan Reed buried a jumper from the top of the key with 8:13 left. By then, Vermont had found its groove and held a 20-7 advantage.

Reed — who ranked second in the America East with 16.6 points per game last year and averaged 15.6 points through 16 games this year — has seen his playing time and, consequentially, his scoring outputs plummet in the last two weeks. After posting 15 points in 35 minutes in Binghamton’s 71-59 loss to UMass Lowell on Jan. 11, Reed has averaged 4.3 points in three games played — he did not make the trip to Albany on Jan. 20, a coach’s decision.

Reed was active on offense, but Vermont’s man-to-man defense limited him in the half court. He scored five points and dished out three assists, but he failed to corral a rebound and went 1-for-6 from the foul line. Binghamton converted seven of its 12 free-throw attempts.

Freshman guard Yosef Yacob led the Bearcats with 10 points on 2-of-7 shooting. His career-high 22-point outburst against Lowell sparked his active streak of five consecutive games in double figures.

The Bearcats have an opportunity to bounce back on Wednesday night, when they are scheduled to host UMBC. In their most recent game, the Retrievers (4-16, 2-5 AE) held off Hartford by two points — two days after Binghamton fell to the Hawks on a last-second put-back.

The Bearcats are deadlocked in last place with Maine, which would hold the tiebreaker over Binghamton, and they trail UMBC by one game.

“You just try to get the next one. The kids have short memories,” Dempsey said. “[Sunday’s game] wasn’t one that we’re proud of, but we’ll get back at it and try to get one on Wednesday night at home against UMBC.”

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.