MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – The Southern Vermont College men's basketball gave it a good fight Monday night in its first game of the third-annual HoopMIA D3 Holiday Shootout hosted by Barry University, but the Mountaineers couldn't quite overcome an early deficit as they eventually fell 94-85 to SUNY Cortland.
After the Red Dragons brought a 51-37 advantage to the intermission, SVC made a strong push in the closing minutes to get it down to just a two-point difference with 7:40 to go. Cortland—a team that garnered votes in the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 poll—was able to gain some breathing room once again, however, and utilized late trips to the free throw line to close out the victory.
Southern Vermont (7-2) will play its second game—and the final contest—of the Shootout on Wednesday as the Mountaineers will line up against Carthage College for an 8 p.m. tip at Barry's Health & Sports Center.
SVC was led by senior Mike Pierre (Melrose, N.Y.) who had team-highs of 20 points and six rebounds. Freshman KJ Kinsey (Deerfield Beach, Fla.) had 24 great minutes off the Mountaineer bench as the South Florida native felt right at home to register a season-best 18 points. Sophomore Kyle Depollar (Rockville, Md.) had 16 points and three boards in the effort while senior Daemond Carter (Forestville, Md.) notched 11 points, five assists, and three rebounds in 24 minutes of reserve time.
The Mountaineers shot a solid 45.8 percent (33-72) from field goal range, but the Red Dragons put up a stellar 60 percent (33-55) clip from the floor in the win. Southern Vermont was very careful with the ball—committing just six turnovers on the night; that is the fewest for the team since a January 10 win at Newbury College and ties for the fewest in the Coach Engelstad era.
SVC outscored Cortland 19-11 in points off turnovers, but the Red Dragons used their height advantage to pull down 39 rebounds to the Mountaineers' 28. Southern Vermont only took 14 free throws against a squad that entered Monday's game ranked first in NCAA Division III in personal fouls per game (13); the Mountaineers connected on just seven of those shots while Cortland went 16-22 from the charity stripe throughout the evening.
The Red Dragons looked like they were going to run away with it from the start as they scored the opening 13 points of the game, but the Southern Vermont reserves then checked in and provided the Mountaineers with a spark. Kinsey drilled a triple from the left edge of the perimeter, and Carter followed that with one from the right corner on SVC's next trip down the floor. Moments later, junior Aaron Murray (Camden, N.J.) drove all the way to the hoop and kicked it out to Kinsey at the last second; the Southern Vermont freshman wasted no time in knocking it down from the right wing to make it just a 17-11 Cortland lead with 12:02 on the clock.
The separation would get pushed back into double digits a handful of occasions throughout the latter end of the half as the Red Dragons continuously answered each time that the Mountaineers got close to making it a one-possession game. Pierre took the ball, made a great side-step to spot up, and connected on a 15-footer from the left edge to make it a seven-point difference—only to see Cortland respond with a trey on the ensuing possession. Depollar then hit a downtown bucket late in the half, but the Red Dragons again had a deep answer as scoring went back-and-forth into the break.
Pierre started the second half with a hot hand—dropping eight points through the opening 5:12 of the period. His last bucket started a 12-1 SVC run which cut it to a 63-58 game and forced a Cortland timeout; Carter drilled a three from the right edge to cap that stretch after Depollar swiped the ball away at midcourt and brought it to the rack for an uncontested layup.
Cortland found itself in the single bonus with 8:19 to go, but the Red Dragons missed the front-end of their first 1-and-1 opportunity to allow sophomore Damon Daniel (Gaithersburg, Md.) to roll in a layup at the other end. Kinsey then stole the ball on Cortland's next possession and slammed it home—setting the score at 68-66 with 7:40 left in regulation.
The Red Dragons once again had a response, however, as they hit a pair of 3-pointers to notch nine unanswered and push the difference back into double digits. Carter would send home a shot from beyond the arc going into the final minute—making it an eight-point separation and giving his team one last chance. Kinsey made another steal-and-score to cut it down to five with 40 ticks on the clock, but that would be the Mountaineers' final basket of the night as the Red Dragons finished it off from the free throw line.
– #LetsGoSVC –