BURLINGTON, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team lost in an exhibition game at Division I University of Vermont, 85-56, on Saturday at Patrick Gymnasium. The Purple Knights, who graduated six players from last year's squad that downed the Catamounts, 63-61, returned a veteran contingent that combined to average 3.7 points in 11.0 minutes in 2014-15. Vermont ended last winter season by advancing to the semifinal round of the College Basketball Invitational.
Junior Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) had game highs of 26 points and nine rebounds for Saint Michael's, shooting 11-of-22 while snagging three offensive rebounds and dishing two assists. Senior Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) and junior David Sullivan (Egg Harbor Township, N.J./Saint Augustine Prep) had six points apiece. Senior Morrell Gaskins (Cambria Heights, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy) snagged five rebounds, and sophomore Colin Richey (Upton, Mass./Choate Rosemary Hall) handed out four assists.
Redshirt first-year Ernie Duncan shot 5-of-11 from three-point range off the bench for Vermont, scoring 17 points with three steals, and redshirt junior Darren Payen had 14 points. Sophomore Drew Urquhart added 13 points off the bench.
Payen scored four points during a game-opening 6-0 run for Vermont, including hitting the go-ahead jumper after 17 seconds, before Bonds responded with a lay-in and first-year Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) knocked down a jumper at 15:10 of the opening half to draw Saint Michael's within 6-4. Urquhart hit a triple 23 seconds later, the first of three straight Catamount shots that went for three points, while the Purple Knights continued to stay close, with Bonds' lay-in making it 9-6 and Grippo hitting a jumper that allowed the visitors to trail 12-8 with 13:51 left.
After Vermont twice pushed its lead out to nine, Saint Michael's made it a 20-14 game when Bonds dished deep in the paint to sophomore Bruno Beča (Zagreb, Croatia/Westchester Country Day School), whose lay-in cut the deficit to six, but the hosts responded with the next eight points by 7:34 to nab a 14-point advantage. That kicked off a 21-6 run, with Urquhart's jumper with 3:42 remaining putting the Catamounts ahead 41-20. Vermont held a slight 10-9 scoring advantage during the remainder of the stanza, taking a 51-29 lead into halftime.
The Purple Knights' deficit continued to be in the 20s during the opening 10-plus minutes of the second period. Sullivan's put-back at 18:12 brought the visitors within 20, and Bonds twice scored to keep Saint Michael's down by 24 points. Bonds found a cutting Sullivan for a lay-in with 9:04 left to trim Vermont's advantage to 30 and later dunked Grippo's slip pass with 7:18 remaining. Grippo's runner off the glass with 3:50 left cut the hole to 79-51, and first-year Derek Cheatom's (Buffalo, N.Y./The Park School of Buffalo) drained a triple at 59 seconds to produce the final score.
The Purple Knights begin their regular season next Saturday for day one of the Saint Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) College Tournament, opposing the hosts at 8 p.m.