Hoopcats fall to Florida St. in NCAA Tournament

Thursday, March 21st

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Tough end to the season for the Hoopcats here in Hartford Thursday afternoon. Vermont executed large points of their gameplan, knocked down 16 threes, and led as late as the 11:34 mark of the second half but it wasn't quite enough to take down this big, athletic Seminole team. Vermont eventually falling 76-69, the Catamounts season coming to an end here in the first round of the NCAA tournament

Now there was a lot of talk coming into this game about how it was a virtual home game for the Cats, playing just 3 and a half hours from Campus. Cats fans made their presence known early on, a lot of green and gold in the stands, and the team fed off their energy. Vermont only had 10 field goals in the first half, but 7 of them were threes, two each from Ernie Duncan and Anthony Lamb.

The Cats defense also stingy, holding FSU to just 31 percent shooting as the teams went to the locker room tied at 27. UVM came out firing again in the second, getting triples from Benny Shungu and Ernie, but they never really could get any separation, and FSU's waves of depth, size, and athleticism proved to be too much. The Cats went 12 minutes without a 2-point field goal in the second half and got into foul trouble. Florida State scoring 31 of their 76 points at the free throw line. At the end of the day, the Cats feel like they played well, but not quite well enough to pull off the upset.

"We're close, you know.", said head coach John Becker. "I felt this way at the Kansas game, I felt this way at the Louisville game and the PUrdue game so just gotta continue to develop our depth and we got a young team and develop some depth and continue to recruit well and just try to close the gap here but we're close. I thought we were well prepared, I thought we executed well, shot well, gave ourselves a chance. It just didn't work out."

Not lost in all of this is it's the end of the road for both Ernie Duncan and Sammy Dingba. The two seniors the only players on the Vermont team who won't be coming back in 2019/20.

"I don't want to get too emotional right now but it's a lot of joy, a lot of joy and a lot of appreciation just to play with my brothers but all my brothers you know and I'm very appreciative of everything that this whole year has been and so happy that I'm going through it and I'm so happy that I can keep my head high and be thankful for kind of what I went through.", said Duncan.

In spite of losing both Ernie and Sammy, the team returns basically everyone else next season, and they're looking forward to making another run in the 2019-2020 season.

"This is gonna push our program forward.", says junior forward and reigning America East player of the year Anthony Lamb. "Even Ernie and Sam were focused on just us getting better and pushing ourselves and trying to learn from this and grow from this so everything is there, the motivation is there, gotta put the work in through the offseason.

So again a tough end for the Cats who were right there for three quarters of the game, but at the end of the day falling to Florida State. They have plenty to be proud of in this 2018-19 season and plenty to look forward to next year.

--- Jack Fitzsimmons