Albany (16-14) vs. Vermont (22-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, March 9, 5 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: SEFCU Arena (4,538) -- Guilderland, New York. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Albany 10-3, Vermont 10-2. Away Record: Albany 6-11, Vermont 9-7. Neutral Record: Albany 0-0, Vermont 3-0. Conference Record: Albany 9-7, Vermont 15-1. Series Record: Vermont leads, 22-9.
GAME NOTES: The fourth-seeded Albany Great Danes and top-seeded Vermont Catamounts will clash in the initial American East Conference Tournament semifinal on Sunday at SEFCU Arena with a trip to the conference finals on the line.
The winner will take on either Hartford or Stony Brook for the tournament title.
Albany took down UMBC with ease in Saturday's quarterfinal matchup, 86-56, to earn a spot in the semis. The Great Danes have won four of their last five games entering this clash.
Vermont bested New Hampshire on Saturday, 77-60, to clinch a spot in the semifinals. The Catamounts have won 11 consecutive contests coming into this showdown.
Vermont owns a comfortable lead in the all-time series with Albany, 22-9. The Catamounts swept the season series against the Danes, winning at home on Jan. 11 and then on the road at Albany on Feb. 1.
Albany made quick work of UMBC in the quarterfinal matchup on Saturday, jumping out to a 38-17 lead at the end of the first half and continuing to pile on the advantage in the second period. Peter Hooley led the Great Danes with 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the floor in the win, while Sam Rowley chipped in 15 points, John Puk added 11, and D.J. Evans contributed 10. Albany hit 56.1 percent of its field goal tries in the game, and made 11-of-20 from 3-point range.
Hooley has proven that he is the Great Danes' go-to scorer this season, leading the team with a 15.3 ppg average on 40.8 percent shooting from the floor. He's followed by Rowley, who checks in with 11.4 ppg and a team-high 6.7 rpg mark. Evans (11.1 ppg) and Gary Johnson (10.8 ppg) round out the double-digit scorers for Albany. Evans contributes a team-best 43 steals and dishes out an Albany-high 2.9 apg.
Vermont withstood a furious onslaught from New Hampshire for a portion of the first half on Saturday, and found itself up by eight points as the teams headed for intermission. But the Catamounts came out firing in the second period, netting 56.5 percent of their shot attempts to down the Wildcats. Candon Rusin and Clancy Rugg each tallied 15 points for Vermont in the win, while Sandro Carissimo and Luke Apfeld contributed 12 points apiece. Brian Voelkel notched a triple-double in the quarterfinal contest, netting 10 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists.
Voelkel leads Vermont this season in both assists (5.9 apg) and rebounds (8.3 rpg), but averages just 6.7 ppg. Rugg tops the Catamounts in scoring on the season with 13.2 ppg, while Carissimo checks in right behind him with 12.8 ppg. Ethan O'Day leads Vermont with 37 blocked shots, and Rugg adds 36 swatted shot attempts. The Catamounts, who ran through the America East Conference with a 15-1 record, average 71.6 ppg through 31 games played, and give up just 60.3 ppg to opponents.
Albany had a very promising showing Saturday against UMBC, but Vermont is unlike any other team in the conference. The Catamounts dominate opponents with smothering defense, then unleash a deep offensive attack. It's Vermont's game, and conference, to lose.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vermont 78, Albany 67
03/09 10:19:43 ET