LYNDONVILLE, Vt. - The Norwich University men's basketball team was unable to hold onto a 22-point first-half lead in a narrow, 103-97, non-conference loss to Northern Vermont University-Lyndon matchup Tuesday evening in the team's season opener.
After trailing 5-2 in the opening minute of play, Norwich (0-1) proceeded to use the next two minutes to take early control of the contest with a 13-1 run which was capped by a three-pointer from junior guard Kyle Booth (Northfield, Vt.). Booth buoyed the offense accounting for eight of the 13 points in the run.
After NVU-Lyndon (2-1) cut the Norwich lead to 15-10, the Cadets countered with 11 unanswered points, punctuated by another Booth three, to extend its lead to 26-10. The hot shooting of Booth again created headaches for the Hornets as the junior guard scored nine-straight points during the run. A driving layup for a three-point play from Dylan Torello interrupted the run, but the Cadets continued to pull away and extended their lead to 45-23 following a three-pointer from junior guard Jesse Davis (Woodinville, Wash.) with 4:20 to go in the opening half.
Lyndon still trailed by 20 when freshman guard Bryan Thompson came in the game and ignited a rally in the final two minutes of the half. A Zach Falkenburg three and layups from Gabriel and Tim Hoar brought Lyndon to within 49-36 at the half.
After the two teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the second half, Norwich looked poised to lock up the game as it gradually built its lead back to 18, 62-44, following another Davis three-pointer with 15:03 remaining. The Cadets leaned on sophomore forward Donovan Lewis Jr. (Savannah, Ga.) who scored eight of the team's 13 points to open the second half.
Lyndon, however, was not going to give up on its home court easily and scored on six of their next seven possessions to go on a 13-0 run, capped off when Peyton Olsen found Gabriel for a dunk, to cut the Norwich lead to 62-57 with just under 12 minutes to go. Sophomore guard Caleb Casinas (Aiea, Hawaii) then converted one of two free throws for the Cadets, but Falkenburg answered with a three, then Olsen converted a layup and Gabriel made one of two free throws. The Hornets had climbed back to tie things at 63 with just over ten minutes to go.
Sophomore guard Spencer Conaster's (Reno, Nev.) layup a minute later gave Norwich the lead again, but Luke Fredsell answered with a three-pointer to give Lyndon its first lead since the early going. Despite allowing the Hornets back in the game, the Cadets appeared poised in their play as Davis made four straight free throws to put the Cadets back up by three and a pair free throws apiece from Booth and senior forward Dan Bertrand (Saugus, Mass.) gave Norwich a four-point advantage. The hosts would not relent and four-straight points from Thompson knotted the game at 73-73 at the 7:21 mark.
Following a Norwich turnover and timeout, Hoar's jumper gave Lyndon a lead that it would never relinquish. The Hornets then dialed in some clutch long-distance shooting hitting four threes down the stretch that made it challenging for the Cadets to overcome.
The Cadets were down 97-92 with 1:10 to play following a converted and-one play for Falkenburg. Casinas crashed the offensive boards after an unsuccessful driving layup by Booth and put back the rebound to cut it to 97-94. He then immediately stole the inbound pass from Falkenburg and laid in another bucket to put the Cadets within one at 97-96 with 53 clicks left on the clock.
A late comeback was not in the cards as the Cadets were whistled for a technical foul after Casinas' layup. Falkenburg made one of two to put the lead back to two then drove and scored when the Hornets gathered the offensive rebound on his second free throw to make it a four-point game. Norwich missed on their final possessions securing the win for the Hornets.
Booth led the Cadets with 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting including 4-of-7 from deep with 17 of those coming in the first half. Lewis Jr. showed off his all-around game with 18 points, 9 boards, and five assists while shooting 67 percent from the field. Casinas also reached double figures 11 points, while Davis led all bench scorers in the game with 20 points.
Falkenburg led Lyndon with 29 points, 21 in the second half, and four assists. Gabriel notched a double-double with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Fredsell scored 17 with five made three-point goals and handed out a game-high eight assists.
The Cadets will host Plymouth State in the team's season home opener on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.