Vermont defeats Boston University for America East crown
Boston University came up short in its bid to clinch its sixth overall America East championship title today after suffering an 83-70 setback against second-seeded Vermont at Patrick Gym.
Marqus Blakely helped the Catamounts (25-9) clinch its first America East title since 2005 and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by scoring 24 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, both game highs.
The second-seeded Terriers (19-13), who advanced to their first America East title game since 2003 by knocking out top-seeded Stony Brook last Saturday, never led during the game. After Blakely helped Vermont expand is 42-31 halftime lead to 13 with a thunderous dunk, BU fought back to pull within 54-53 when Corey Lowe, who led the Terriers with 24 points, struck a deep 3-pointer with 10:19 to go.
It was as close as BU got as the Catamounts withstood the furious rally by getting a huge backdoor layup by Evan Fjeld and a 3-pointer by Maurice Joseph to pull away by 6, 59-53.
1:54, Second half, Vermont 74, BU 63
Evan Fjeld has just fouled out of the game, sending Corey Lowe to the foul line. Fjeld was given a standing ovation as he walked off the floor to UVM's bench. Fjeld played the game with a heavy heart after his mother, Susan, died of cancer Tuesday.
3:15, Second half, Vermont 66, BU 58
Catamounts starting to pull away after Terriers closed within 62-58 on Tyler Morris's 3-pointer with 4:58 to go.
7:17, Second half, Vermont 59, BU 53
The Terriers pulled within 54-53 on deep try by Corey Lowe with 10:19 to go, but the Catamounts got a backdoor layup by Evan Fjeld and Maurice Joseph drilled a trey to help Vermont pull away by 6 points.
10:42, Second half, Vermont 53, BU 50
Jake O'Brien has come on strong in the last two minutes, keying a 12-3 run with eight points in that stretch. He made a huge block underneath on Marqus Blakely and then converted underneath on the opposite end and, after John Holland went coast to coast after coming up with a loose-ball rebound, knocked down a pair of huge 3-pointers back-to-back to pull the Terriers within 3 points. O'Brien now has 13 points, all huge.
15:49, Second half, Vermont 48, BU 38
The Catamounts expanded their halftime lead to 13, 44-31, on Blakely's rim-rattling alley-oop dunk, but the Terriers battled back on John Holland's 3-pointer and Carlos Strong's foul-inducing drive, cutting it to 9. Vermont continues to dominate the board, 23-13.
Halftime, Vermont 42, BU 31
Marqus Blakely hit a fadeaway jumper just before the halftime horn sounded at Patrick Gym to give Vermont a commanding 12-point lead at intermission. Blakely led the Catamounts in the first half with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Corey Lowe led BU with 12 first-half points. The Terriers, making their first appearance in the America East championship since 2003 (when BU lost to Vermont at Case Gym) , closed to within 35-29 after hitting five consecutive foul shots. The Terriers made 10 in a row after missing their first foul shot attempt of the game. BU shot 8-for-23 from the field in the first half and no one seemed to struggle more than John Holland. The Terriers' leading scorer (19.3 ppg) was held to 1-for-7 shooting, missing his last two attempts on an alley-oop dunk attempt and a backdoor dunk. It led Holland to give up his last touch when he drove the paint and then dished it to Jeff Pelage, who had Holland's bullet-pass on the blocks go through his hands and out of bounds. It was that kind of half for the Terriers.
3:45, First half, Vermont 34, BU 24
The Terriers continue to struggle from the field, hitting just 7 of 20 shots. Marqus Blakely, meanwhile, has heated up, scoring four points on back-to-back baskets to key an 8-3 run. BU junior John Holland has struggled, going 1 for 6 from the field.
5:52, First half, Vermont 30, BU 24
Carlos Strong has struck for a pair of back-to-back treys from the top of the key to pull the Terriers within six.
7:52, First half, Vermont 24, BU 16
Timeout. BU is shooting 5 for 14 from the field (3 of 6 from the 3-point arc) and Vermont his shooting 9 of 14 from the field (3 of 4 from the arc). When play was resumed, Vermont seemed to execute a perfect inbounds play to Pat Bergman, who took the pass, spun around to his left and made a jump hook all in the span of 1 second, which was what was showing on the shot clock. Officials halted play, examined TV replays of the shot, and counted it. Vermont now has a 10-point lead again, 26-16.
8:43, First half, Vermont 24, BU 14
The Catamounts have gone on a 7-point mini-tear to open up a 10-point lead on Marqus Blakely's strong lay-in with 8:46 to go, forcing BU coach Patrick Chambers to signal for a 30-second timeout.
11:13, First half, Vermont 17, BU 14
The Catamounts, encountering some stiff defensive resistance, threatened to pull away when Joey Accaoui drilled a deep 3-pointer to give Vermont a 15-9 lead. But Corey Lowe quickly answered with one of his own to keep BU within striking distance, 15-12. Jeff Pelage answered a Brendan Bald floater with an offensive putback, making it 17-14.
14:50, First half, Vermont 9, BU 5
Vermont has come out shooting lights-out basketball, hitting all four of its first field goal attempts. BU, meanwhile, has managed to hit two of its first seven attempts, including a deep, deep 3-pointer by Corey Lowe, who seemed to strike from Montpelier after answering Garvey Young's trey to pull the Terriers within 7-5. But Evan Fjeld, playing with two fouls and a heavy heart after the death of his mother Tuesday, drew the game's loudest reaction when he scored his first basket at 15:13 to expand Vermont's lead to 9-5.
A moment of silence was observed before today's America East championship game at Patrick Gym between host Vermont, the tourney's second-seeded team, and No. 4 seed Boston University in honor of Evan Fjeld's mother, Susan, who passed away Tuesday after a long bout with cancer. Fjeld, a 6-foot-8 junior forward from Durham, N.C., soldiered on through the season knowing his mother was terminally ill. It wasn't until she passed that he broke the news to his stunned Vermont coaches and teammates. Fjeld was given the option to sit out today's game to grieve the loss of his mother, but decided it was not an option. ``If you knew my mom, she would have not have had that,'' Fjeld told the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press before the game. ``So I'm going to go out and play as hard as I can play because this is really an escape for me, and for all my family back home, hopefully this will be an escape for them, too.''
If the Terriers win today's game it will mark BU's first conference crown since 2003 and sixth overall for the program. It will also improve BU's record to 20-12, marking the Terrier's first 20-win season since 2004-05 (20-9) and the first under first-year coach Pat Chambers, who would join former Northeastern coach Karl Fogel (1987) as the only two coaches in league history to win the title in their first year at their respective schools.
BU's student body, which was on spring break this week, was represented by a 25-piece pep band and about 125 students, one of whom held a white poster board sign that had Chambers' picture on it and read: ``This is Patrick's Gym.'' Of course, it seemed to disregard the 20-point pummeling, 78-58, the Terriers absorbed here in their regular-season visit to this building Jan. 17. BU athletic director Mike Lynch reported that the school brought about 500 fans to the game, including the band, dance team, and students.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell