With all of the hullabaloo over Jimmer Fredette returning to his hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y., the 18th-ranked Cougars better not lose sight of the fact that they will be facing a very capable team in Vermont on Wednesday night.
If they get caught up in all pomp and circumstance and forget to focus on the game at hand, this one could slip away from them.
The Catamounts were the NCAA tournament representatives out of the America East Conference last season.
This year they are off to their best start since 1956 with 6-1 mark, their lone loss was a 89-73 setback at sixth-ranked UConn.
Vermont is led by 6'8" senior forward Evan Fjeld, who averages 20.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The preseason America East All-Conference player shoots an impressive 61 percent from the field.
At 5'8", the reserve point guard Joey Accaoui comes off the bench and fills it up. He’s the second leading scorer averaging 13.3 points per game while shooting 41 percent from the three-point line.
Forward Matt Glass is Vermont’s best three-point shooter averaging 57 percent. The 6'8" forward is also the third leading scorer for the Catamounts averaging 11 points per game.
Freshman forward Brian Voelkel is the leader in both rebounds and assists, averaging 9.7 boards and 5.3 dishes per game.
The Catamounts are a good shooting team, making 49.5 percent of their shots from the floor and hitting 42 percent from the three-point line. They are also a solid rebounding team, out-rebounding their opponents by six boards per game.
However, they have a tendency to turn the ball over, which could really hurt them against a BYU team that averages 10 steals an outing. Vermont has given up 55 steals in seven games, nearly eight per game, and have averaged 5.3 more turnovers than their opponents.
In order to stay in the game they will need to take better care of the basketball. If Vermont turns it over and allows the Cougars to get out in transition and feed off of the pro-BYU crowd, they could get buried in a hurry.
Wednesday’s game will take place at the Glens Falls Civic Center, which is sold out, including all of the standing room only tickets. Virtually all of the 6,200 fans will be cheering for the hometown hero Fredette and the Cougars in a rabid fashion.
Earlier this season though, Vermont faced a similar challenge and came away with an 80-76 victory at Siena in front of a hostile crowd of over 8,000. This team is well coached by Mike Lonergan, who has 354 coaching victories to his credit, and they will come ready to play.
The Cougars better do so as well.
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