Yes Virginia, there is a Catamount

O.K. We believe. At least a little more than we did yesterday.

We're not going to risk a twisted ankle jumping on the Vermont bandwagon. But after they came into the Hart Center and beat Holy Cross 64-59 (box score) last night, we're starting to think maybe the Catamounts are better than we gave them credit for.

Still not convinced they are as good as some of the hype, but better than we thought after they lost at American. What surprised us was the way the Catamounts were able to pull off this win despite not getting a monster night from Taylor Coppenrath. Coppenrath finished with 22 points. But the guy who impressed the beat writer for the Burlington Free Press was Germain Mopa Njila:
The 6-foot-4 forward from Cameroon had his best game of the season, scoring 13 points and grabbing 13 rebounds . . .
The Boston Herald saw it the same way:
Germain Mopa Njila likely made the biggest difference in Vermont's narrow escape against a game nonconference opponent. Mopa Njila finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds to go along with two steals and a blocked shot.
Right about now might be a good time to point out that Vermont might have exposed a bit of a weakness in Holy Cross -- its frontline. Nate Lufkin is a pretty good center, especially for the Patriot League. He has good size (6-11) and plays as tough as a two-dollar steak. But beyond Lufkin, there's a considerable drop-off. Tim Clifford, the 6-10 freshman, is obviously not ready (if he were, surely Ralph would have gotten him off the bench last night when the Crusaders desperately needed a big man to at least get in Vermont's way when Lufkin got in foul trouble (Again we wonder, where have you gone Neil Fingleton).

After Lufkin, HC's size drops off in a hurry. Kevin Hyland, at 6-8, and John Hurley, 6-7, are the only other guys over 6-6, and Hurley is more of a swingman. With Lufkin limited to 15 minutes of action, just 3 minutes in the second half, due to foul trouble, the Crusaders were in a difficult situation.

From the Herald:
With Holy Cross center Nate Lufkin among the big men leaning on Coppenrath, the 6-foot-9 senior forward had just six points at halftime. He had no rebounds, prompting a verbal challenge from his coach.

"He looked lethargic, and I told him you're this team's star so you have to play like a star," (Vermont coach Tom) Brennan said. "I thought he responded well in the second half."

Particularly after Lufkin fouled out with 5:58 left and UVM clinging to a 53-48 lead. The 6-11 Holy Cross center had just re-entered the affair after sitting on the bench for much of the half with four fouls.
Ralph Willard told Jen Toland in the Worcester Telegram-Gazette (subscription needed, thus no link):
Coppenrath got the ball in too good a position in the second half. In the first half we did a good job of denying him position. In the second half, we were a step late. And I give him a lot of credit, he's a 60-percent free-throw shooter and to make 10 of 12 was huge."
Of course in the first half, Lufkin was on the floor more. More from Ralph:
"Nate's foul trouble was a really big issue. We had less options on the floor. We need Nate on the floor against a team like this to have an opportunity to win."
Hyland also finished with four fouls. Obviously any leaning on Coppenrath he could do was limited by his foul troubles, too. It might also be worth noting that Mopa Njila did most of his damage (11 points, 7 rebounds) in the second half, too.

Somewhere here we should also mention that Coppenrath played all 40 minutes and had 0 fouls. The folks on the Holy Cross board seem to think the refs were hoping for a postgame autograph from the alleged future NBAer and we have to wonder ourselves. A 6-9 post player in a battle like this and he doesn't foul once? Sorry Bilas, doesn't sound like one of D-I's toughest players to us. Hell, we spend an awful lot of time trying to convince the kid it is OK to pick up a foul or two and to not do so probably means she is not playing aggressive enough.

The silver lining for Holy Cross fans has to be how close this game still was despite Lufkin's foul trouble. Here's a little chronology, derived from the HC official site:
The Catamounts trailed 32-28 at halftime before Coppenrath scored 8 of Vermont's 10 points to open the second half . . .

Germain Mopa Njila scored seven points in a 13-3 run that gave Vermont (5-3) a 47-42 lead halfway through the second half . . .

Sophomore guard Torey Thomas scored a layup, senior forward John Hurley put back an offensive rebound and Simmons hit two free throws as the Crusaders cut the lead to 53-52 with 4:57 remaining . . .

Coppenrath's three-point play and two free throws opened the lead again . . .

The Crusaders twice cut the lead to two points in the final minutes but could not retake the lead.
After scoring over 80 points two games in a row, shooting 59 percent against Brown and 54 percent against Northeastern, Holy Cross shot 42 percent from the field against Vermont and scored only 59 points. On the other hand, the Crusaders had allowed over 70 points in each of the prior two games, but held Vermont to 64, tying the Catamounts second-lowest scoring game of the season. UVM also scored 64 in a 67-64 loss at American. Only Kansas, which beat the Catamounts 68-61, held Vermont to fewer points.

Willard told the Herald:
"We got back to playing the kind of defense we're capable of playing, especially in the first half," said Willard, alluding to the fact his team had surrendered 70-plus points in consecutive games coming in. "Our defense wasn't as strong in the second half, but I don't think that necessarily cost us the game. Our offensive energy was lacking. It's tough, too. We could have had this game."
What does this mean come Patriot League conference play? That is not easy to answer. It's tempting to argue this solidifies Bucknell's role as the favorite to win the league. Chris McNaughton is the top post player in the conference and guards Charles Lee and Kevin Bettencourt like to penetrate. If Lufkin gets into foul trouble, either helping on a guard or trying to stop McNaughton, it will be tough for the Crusaders to beat the Bison.

Then again, McNaughton is not Coppenrath, and Lufkin, though not his offensive equal, is a very close second in the league's big man rankings. At this point it is very difficult to imagine those two teams not splitting their two games in the regular season.

Which is what we thought yesterday, even before HC's loss. Which leads us to conclude the only real impact this game will have on anything in the long run might be on the conference's RPI and eventual NCAA seeding.

Elsewhere yesterday:

The Citadel 87, Navy 62 -- (box score) (story) Warren McClendon hit a three 1:02 into the game to give The Citadel a 3-0 lead and the Bulldogs never trailed. Navy managed to cut the lead to 1 several times and trailed by only 2, 52-50, midway through the second half.

Then The Citadel went on a 16-5 spurt and never looked back.

Amazingly, Navy trailed by just 4, 36-32, at the half, despite shooting 27 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes. Can you say "Thank you Mr. Official." The Midshipmen got to the foul line 17 times in the half.

Actually, this game was pretty much a foul shooting contest. In between a combined 41 turnovers (Navy 23, Citadel 18), the two teams shot a total of 79 free throws.

That had to be fun for the 2,178 fans who squandered a vacation day to come see this afternoon matinee.

The Citadel is now 8-3 on the season, though four of those wins came against non-Division I teams and two others against Army and Navy.

According to the preview of today's game on The Citadel's Web site, Bulldog's coach Pat Dennis "has long wanted to put together a tournament featuring military schools such as Navy, Air Force and Army."

Dennis might want to reconsider inviting Air Force. The Falcons are not the pushovers Army and Navy are, and certainly will put up more of a battle than Atlanta Christian, Chowan or Vorhees

Colgate 81, Florida Atlantic 75 -- (box score) (story): Raiders shot 67 percent from the field in the second half. FAU falls to 1-8 while the Raiders improve to 4-8.

Don't let Florida Atlantic's record fool you into thinking this was not a decent win for the 'Gate.

For starters, when you have been struggling like Colgate, every win is a good win. On the road, the last game of a long trip, down at the half, it would have been very easy to mail it in.

Also, FAU's 1-8 record comes against much better competition than most Patriot League schools are playing (see RPI post below).

Fairleigh Dickinson 69, Army 53 -- (box score) (AP wrap)

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

©2005 Hoop Time. All rights reserved.