UNH men’s basketball: Wildcats ‘thoroughly outplayed’ by top-seeded Vermont; Catamounts lock up home court advantage



Cameron Beall, Sports Editor

DURHAM, N.H. – It didn’t take long for the University of Vermont (UVM) Catamounts (21-5, 13-1) to remind the league what kind of team they are after their first loss since the turn of the year. In their third straight game without star senior Ryan Davis, the Catamounts easily discarded University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (12-11, 7-7) and made it clear that the America East still runs through Burlington. 

New Hampshire came into Wednesday night’s contest as the No. 2 seed in the conference and had a chance to make some noise. Davis – who is likely to repeat as America East Player of the Year – was scratched about an hour prior to tip-off with a lower body injury, and the Wildcats were riding their first win streak since Nov. 27. There was a chance, albeit slim, that New Hampshire could have made one of their biggest statements in the 17-year Bill Herrion era with a win on Wednesday.  

“I thought defensively we were getting settled in the last week or two and then they just punched us right in the mouth,” explained Herrion. “We were never in the game. We never had a chance.” 

Within the first five minutes of the game UVM had jumped out to a 10-point advantage and built it up to as much as 32 in the second half. 

Fifth-year Vermont guard Ben Shungu continued his campaign for another All-Conference selection on Wednesday with his second-straight 20-point output in the absence of Davis. Shungu finished with 22 points barely edging out grad student Justin Mazzulla who added 21. Mazzulla paced the Catamounts who shot 54.5% from behind the 3-point line, converting six of his eight attempts from deep. 

The Wildcats have seen Vermont twice this season and Herrion had just one takeaway from how they looked without Davis in the lineup. 

“They’re really good with him and they’re really good without him,” he said. 

With the win, the Catamounts locked up the top-seed in this year’s conference tournament. As for the rest of the league, no one feels safe at this point; the difference between No. 2 UMBC and No. 9 UMass Lowell is just 2.5 games. While there is still plenty of opportunity for most teams to jump into a top-four seed and host a quarterfinal matchup, none should feel comfortable having to go into Vermont’s home court in March. According to the NCAA Men’s Basketball NET Rankings the Vermont Catamounts are the 69th best team in the nation. The next highest America East team is UMBC at 233, and New Hampshire is down at 251. 

These last few games will be a grind for each team trying to jockey for position in the standings. With all the postponements that took place earlier in the season each team is fighting fatigue at this point but New Hampshire may be battling it more than most. The Wildcats have essentially been playing with an eight-man roster in the latter half of the regular season. Graduate student Josh Hopkins and junior Sloan Seymour each left the program a few weeks ago, leaving senior Qon Murphy, grad student Chris Lester and sophomore Marco Foster as the main reserves for UNH. 

Herrion didn’t want to make excuses for any potential fatigue weighing on his players down the stretch. 

“It is what it is,” said Herrion. “I don’t really have an answer for that.” 

The Wildcats will be back on Saturday at UAlbany (11-15, 7-7) to try and solidify themselves in the top-half of the conference. They’ll tip-off at 4 p.m. from SEFCU Arena on ESPN3. 

Photo courtesy of Andrew Yourell