Long helps shoot Vermont past Saint Louis 78-68 and into the MBI championship game

CONWAY, S.C. (Nov. 17, 2023) – Vermont guard TJ Long scored 16 points, including five in a 23-second span that thwarted a potential Saint Louis comeback, to help lead the Catamounts to a 78-68 victory and into Sunday’s championship game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Vermont (4-0) shot 55.8 percent from the field from the game, including a sizzling 64 percent in the first half, in the wire-to-wire victory. The Catamounts jumped out to an 8-3 lead barely two minutes into the game and never trailed.

“We were really good on both sides of the ball,” Vermont coach John Becker said. “It was a great effort by just about everybody.”

The Billikens (4-1) were without leading scorer Sincere Parker, who fractured a bone in his foot in Thursday’s opening-round victory over Wyoming and is out indefinitely. Parker had 22 points and eight rebounds against the Cowboys before injuring the foot, and was averaging 17.3 points per game this season.

“We understand what Sincere brought to our team,” SLU coach Travis Ford said. “He did some things that he was very, very good at. He could just go get a bucket on his own sometimes. Now we have to do it more as a team. But today we came out very flat without the energy we needed. We had a few runs in us, but we couldn’t sustain them.”

One of those runs occurred midway through the second half. Trailing 66-49, the Billikens scored eight consecutive points to close the gap to 66-57 with still seven minutes remaining. Then in rapid succession Long hit a driving layup, Vermont forward Matt Veretto blocked a shot on the other end, and then Long drained a fastbreak 3-pointer. And just like that, the lead was back up to 71-57.

“Whenever a team goes on a quick run like that, the energy is back and it gets everyone fired up,” Long said. “That’s the great thing about this team. Nobody cares who gets the credit. The only goal is to win.”

Gibson Jimerson scored a game-high 18 points with four assists for Saint Louis, and Terrence Hargrove Jr. added 15 points and five rebounds.