NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Vermont is a veteran a team. That experience went a long way in helping the Catamounts earn a 79-73 victory over Yale before a nice Saturday afternoon crowd at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
Vermont (5-1) had three players score in double figures, led by Anthony Lamb, who scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Payton Henson added 19 points and Ernie Duncan scored 12. Senior Trae Bell Haynes was a big facilitator as well. He scored six points, but had 10 assists.
The Catamounts have won five straight games since opening the season with a 73-69 loss at Kentucky.
Yale (3-4) got a big game from Miye Oni, who finished with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The game was a matchup of two of the top programs in New England, and it lived up to its billing. There were nine ties and 16 lead changes.
The final tie was 59-59 with 8:46 remaining. The Catamounts then used a 10-4 run, capped by a Henson layup, to seize control. Vermont’s lead grew to nine before the Bulldogs made a late push. Oni’s three-pointer cut the deficit to four, but Ernie Duncan made two free throws with three seconds left to seal the victory.
“Vermont is a very good, veteran team. They played the way you would expect them to,” said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of the Bulldogs.
Vermont, which returns a number of key players from last year’s team that went 16-0 in America East play and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, was playing its fourth game decided in the final minutes, including the loss at Kentucky. Yale, on the other hand, is a young team that hasn’t been involved in a really tight game yet this year.
“This was our first close game, and we didn’t handle it as well as we could have,” Jones said. “They are a senior-laden team that is not going to beat themselves. We are in the process of learning. This game will teach us what we need to do better.”
Alex Copeland scored 17 points for the Bulldogs, while Blake Reynolds and Azar Swain each had six.
Lamb was a force inside for the Catamounts, going 10-of-18 from the field with many of his baskets coming in traffic.
“He did a great job posting up,” Jones said. “We tried to double him but it didn’t come in the right way.”
Vermont also did a good job on the boards, outrebounding the Bulldogs 34-41 and limiting Yale to seven offensive rebounds.
“We couldn’t keep them off the glass, and that’s what our identity is supposed to be,” Oni said.
The experience of playing Vermont along with the other challenging early-season opponents Yale has faced should help the team when Ivy League play gets under way in January.
“Everyone is getting better every day,” said Oni, who was 8-of-16 from the field, including a spectacular finish of an alley-oop feed from Swain. “The coaches told us after the game they were proud of how we stuck together and showed grit.”
A busy stretch for the Bulldogs continues on Monday when they play at Delaware. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. Yale then hosts Bryant on Wednesday at 8 p.m. before traveling to Texas to meet TCU next Saturday. Tip for that game was recently changed to 8 p.m. EST.