Hartford (18-15) at U-M-B-C (23-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 15th, 12:02 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The RAC Arena (4,000) -- Baltimore, Maryland. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Hartford 10-3, UMBC 12-1. Away Record: Hartford 4-12, UMBC 9-7. Neutral Record: Hartford 4-0, UMBC 2-0. Conference Record: Hartford 10-6, UMBC 13-3. Series Record: Hartford leads, 6-4.
GAME NOTES: A couple of teams gunning for their first-ever America East Conference Tournament title meet at the RAC Arena today, as the top-seeded UMBC Retrievers host the second-seeded Hartford Hawks in the championship game. The winner of this contest will earn the right to represent the AEC in the NCAA Tournament. In 22 prior seasons of conference action, the Hawks had never finished higher than third place, but that was until this year's club finished second with a 10-6 record. Hartford continued to make history in the postseason, as it defeated seventh-seeded New Hampshire (68-65) in the quarterfinals and sixth-seeded Boston University (59-52) in the semifinals to advance to its first-ever AEC Tournament championship game. The Hawks, who had been 0-9 all-time in semifinal round play prior to this year's run, have already set a school record for Division I wins with 18. As for UMBC, it won its first AEC regular-season title courtesy of a 13-3 finish within the league. The Retrievers kicked off tourney with play with a 76-60 triumph over eighth-seeded Stony Brook in the quarterfinals before outlasting fifth-seeded Vermont, 73-64, in the semifinals on Sunday. This is the first appearance in a tourney title game for UMBC, which has never made it to the NCAA Tournament, much like Hartford. The Retrievers and Hawks split a pair of one-point decisions during the regular-season, leaving Hartford with a 6-4 edge in the head-to-head series.
The Hawks have done a solid job on offense this season, as they are turning in 71.0 ppg on 44.7 percent shooting from the field and 37.9 percent from downtown. Joe Zeglinski has led Hartford in scoring in each of the past four games and he tops the roster with an average of 16.2 ppg for the season. Warren McLendon checks in with 12.4 ppg and 5.4 rpg, while Morgan Sabia nets 10.3 ppg off 42.1 percent shooting from long range. In the team's semifinal round bout against Boston University on Sunday, Zeglinski tallied 16 points and McLendon notched a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds to power Hartford to the victory. The Hawks won the game behind stingy defense, holding Boston University to a dismal 33.9 percent shooting effort from the field, including a poor 3-of-20 showing from three-point range.
The Retrievers are knocking down 45.0 percent of their attempts from the field and 39.0 percent from long distance for an average of 74.9 ppg. What makes this team even more dangerous is that fact that it doesn't make many mistakes, committing a mere 9.5 turnovers per game. Ray Barbosa paces UMBC with 17.0 ppg and he is also grabbing 4.2 rpg and shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc. Darryl Proctor is next in line at 14.8 ppg and that is to go with team-highs of 8.5 rpg and 50 steals. Brian Hodges puts forth 14.2 ppg, while Cavell Johnson contributes 13.3 ppg and 6.9 rpg. In the semifinals, Barbosa went a perfect 15-of-15 at the foul line, as he finished with 29 points in a triumph of Vermont. Proctor logged 17 points and four steals, while Johnson recorded 12 points and eight boards. UMBC converted 27-of-34 free-throw attempts in the game and it also forced Vermont into a whopping 21 turnovers.
Both programs are in the midst of history making campaigns, but only one will be headed to the "Big Dance" today. UMBC, which went 12-1 at home this season, has the luxury of hosting this game and that, along with a balanced effort, should help the Retrievers claim their first-ever title.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UMBC 72, Hartford 64
03/15 10:29:04 ET