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Bearcats fall to conference leading Vermont

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BURLINGTON, Vt. – First-place Vermont (10-8, 5-0 America East) built a 10-point halftime lead and went on to a 64-44 win over Binghamton men's basketball (2-19, 1-5 AE) Monday night at Patrick Gym.

The Catamounts, led from start to finish, made 21-of-23 free throws and won for the 12th time in 14 all-time home meetings against BU. The Bearcats drew no closer than eight points in the second half.

Freshman forward Willie Rodriguez led BU with 12 points – the sixth time in the last eight games he's reached double figures. Rodriguez, who also added seven rebounds, drilled a three from the top of the key with 15:29 left, pulling the Bearcats to within eight, 39-31. But UVM answered with an alley-oop and three-pointer on successive possessions to restore its double-digit cushion.

First-year guard Romello Walker added nine points for the Bearcats, whose comeback bid was hampered by seven foul calls in the first 7:40 of the second half.

Binghamton shot just 34 percent and was minus 10 on the glass.

"We're so small right now," head coach Tommy Dempsey said of his team's size disadvantage. "Vermont is a good team and they are a little deeper and bigger than us right now. But I thought we competed really hard. We just couldn't get those 50-50 balls coming off the rim. They were pounding us in the paint (32-16 margin) and we were just a little bit too small to defend the rim."

The Catamounts opened the game with a 12-4 run as BU misfired on 7-of-9 to start. But Rodriguez drove to the rim for a jam and his subsequent free throw brought the Bearcats to within five, 19-14, with 8:01 left. After UVM scored four straight, sophomore guard Marlon Beck answered with a three and one minute later junior guard Karon Waller drilled a three from the corner as the shot clock expired to bring BU back to within five, 25-20. Vermont, however, scored seven of the final nine points to end the half, and took a 34-24 margin into intermission.

Binghamton hosts Stony Brook at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

(Courtesy: BU Athletics)