The undermanned University of Maine Black Bears ran into the hottest men’s basketball team in the country Wednesday night — and it wasn’t pretty.
The top-ranked University of Vermont stormed out to a 29-point halftime lead and rolled to an 86-41 victory over eighth-seeded UMaine in a conference quarterfinal at Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington.
Vermont extended its Division I-leading winning streak to 19 straight games with the victory and improved its overall record to 27-5. The Catamounts will host the winner of Wednesday’s quarterfinal between No. 4 University of New Hampshire and No. 5 Maryland-Baltimore County in next Monday’s semifinals.
UMaine, which lost to Vermont three times this winter, ended its season with a 7-25 record.
“They’re just really, really good,” said UMaine coach Bob Walsh to Learfield broadcaster Ron Lisnet after the game. “That’s what this game was all about. They’re really good and they played really well.”
Freshman forward Anthony Lamb, the America East rookie of the year, made all 10 of his field-goal attempts — including two 3-pointers — to pace a balanced Vermont offense with 23 points.
Dre Wills, the AE defensive player of the year, came off the bench to score 13 points while sixth man of the year Darren Payen scored 12 points and conference player of the year Trae Bell-Haynes had 11.
The Catamounts made 38 of their 64 field-goal tries, or 59 percent, while committing just seven turnovers.
Vermont’s conference-leading defense, which began the night ranked 19th in NCAA Division I by allowing just 63.2 points per game, limited UMaine to 32 percent (16 of 50) shooting from the field.
“We don’t have a ton of great offensive options out there,” said Walsh. “We don’t have guys that are really creators out there so we’ve really got to share the ball and make them work to get open looks and I didn’t think we did that early in the game and all of a sudden they were up big on us and it’s tough to battle back.”
Freshman forward Andrew Fleming of South Paris paced the Black Bears offensively with 18 points while junior guard Austin Howard scored nine.
“Our guys battled, they continue to compete for each other and that’s all we can ask,” said Walsh. “Our program isn’t at the level of Vermont right now, so give them credit.”
Lamb scored 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field to spark Vermont to a 45-16 halftime cushion.
Vermont eventually stretched its lead to as many as 48 points on three different occasions during the second half.