Search

Morning. Off to see the groundhog?

“Rita, do me a favor. I need someone to give me a good, hard slap in the face.” It was confusion, and some minor trepidation, that Phil (Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day”) felt throughout his second time experiencing the same sequence of events: the 6:00 AM “I Got You Babe” wake-up, the annoying insurance dweeb Ned Ryerson, the ceremony at Gobbler’s Knob.

It wasn’t until that same 6:00 AM alarm sounded a third time that full-blown panic set in. “Rita, I’m re-living the same day… Over and over,” Phil tells his affectionate but skeptical producer. Such was the emotional state reverberating throughout the Reilly Center and inside the minds of Bona faithful as we watched our third-straight home opener loss unfurl.


It wasn’t even the rhythm-less dud of a 12-point stunner that the banged-up and mediocre-at-best MAC visitors handed our 12-point favorites. No, the magnitude of our quandary was shoved upon us with a sudden, game-altering and potentially season-defining injury. Of course, the Adams injury ahead of our 2017 Niagara opener and the Griffin injury against Bucknell last season weren’t close to season-defining, but undeniably contributed to initial, gut-punch losses. They were opening defeats that we hadn’t seen since 2004, and suffered only once ever in the RC before that.


This time, Ohio big man Sylvester Ogbonda set a high screen on Kyle Lofton that allowed guard Jason Preston to get to the rim. It was there that a waiting Osun Osunniyi jumped to block Preston's left-handed finger-roll and came down awkwardly on his right leg, causing what looked like a bad knee hyperextention.




Thankfully, it seems we've avoided total disaster, and Osun may "only" be out two or three weeks with a bone bruise, but this all still stings. An 0-1 start, combined with a half-dozen or so games without maybe our most impactful player is... less than ideal.


So, here we are again. Like Phil waking up next to an in-tact pencil he broke in half the night before. The trudge commences.


GOD DAMN IT.


On to Vermont.

 

The class of the America East conference will come to a raucous Reilly Center Friday night for the rubber match of a three-game series that has delivered tremendously. If the first two meetings were any indication, Friday will provide a thrilling triumph for one side and a heartbreaking loss for the other.


In December 2017, Vermont stud Anthony Lamb (more on him soon) came back to his hometown of Rochester to square off in a back-and-forth affair that featured 12 lead changes, eight ties and a buzzer-beating three from Matt Mobley. Mobley had uncharacteristically disappeared during the game. He went just 0-for-2 from the field before knocking down an ice-cold dagger as time expired that gave the Bonnies their fifth straight win.


It took two overtimes and a career-high 42 points (15-28 FG, 6-16 3PT) from Lamb for the Catamounts to get revenge in Burlington last season. Lamb had a remarkable 150 offensive rating, with no turnovers and one foul in 47 minutes of play. It’s good to be the home team, and that’s now good for the Bonnies.

With Lamb on the roster, Vermont has gone 83-21 (45-3 in the conference). With John Becker running the show since 2011, Vermont has racked up 107 America East wins in 128 games, including eight straight 20+ win seasons, four regular season conference championships and three tournament championships (2012, 2017, 2019).


Last year’s America East player of the year and All-America Honorable Mention, Lamb was recently named to the Naismith Watch List. Obviously, the Catamounts offense completely revolves around the 6’6” forward. He’ll take the ball wherever his teammates can get it to him – down low, on the perimeter, at the high post. He showed off his newly-developed three-point shot against the Bonnies last year, knocking down six treys and eventually nailing 36.5% of his 137 attempts throughout the season.


This threat has made him all the more dangerous, allowing him to also drive out of isolation on over-pursuing defenders for a finish at the rim, or dish it to one of several dangerous spot-up shooters. So who will have the most difficult assignment of the off-season - guarding Lamb in space and out of isolation sets?


Last December, Schmidt threw many different looks at Lamb. With Griffin out due to injury, wings Stockard and Tshiefu Ngalakulondi manned up on him and guarded him out of a zone. Mostly it was Osunniyi and Ikpeze coming out to the perimeter to try to disrupt him with size, but he’d still drive to the bucket for a finish or nail down a deep three over Osunniyi’s outstretched 7’8” wingspan.