UMBC (7-22) vs. Hartford (17-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: SEFCU Arena (4,538) -- Albany, New York. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UMBC 6-8, Hartford 10-4. Away Record: UMBC 1-14, Hartford 7-8. Neutral Record: UMBC 0-0, Hartford 0-0. Conference Record: UMBC 5-11, Hartford 10-6. Series Record: Hartford leads, 11-10.
GAMES NOTES: The sixth-seeded UMBC Retrievers will go up against the third- seeded Hartford Hawks in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament at SEFCU Arena on Saturday afternoon.
There was big news out of UMBC earlier this week when acting head coach Aki Thomas was officially announced as the head coach for the program. Thomas took over on Oct. 10 after Randy Monroe resigned before the season started. Under Thomas' tutelage the Retrievers still struggled finishing the season at 7-22 overall and 5-11 in league play. UMBC did win its season finale over Binghamton but lost six straight prior to that victory.
Things have been much less tumultuous at Hartford under John Gallagher. The Hawks are rolling into the postseason after posting wins in their final three contests of the regular season. Hartford closed up at 17-12 overall while 10-6 in league action making it one of four teams to have secured double-digit wins against fellow AEC teams.
UMBC is the only one of these teams to have ever earned an America East crown with the winner of this contest set to face the victory between New Hampshire and Vermont.
Hartford pulled ahead in the all-time series (11-10) when these teams met at the end of February. The victory was the fourth in the last five meetings for the Hawks after the teams split the season series this year.
Against last place Binghamton, UMBC was able to post a 59-49 victory in the regular season finale. The Retrievers shot at just a 31.7 percent clip but doubled up on the Bearcats in points from the 3-point range (36-18), while forcing 20 turnovers by the visiting team.
Ryan Cook (15.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg) put an exclamation point on his strong senior season by pouring in a game-high 24 points against Binghamton. The 6-foot-2 guard scored in double figures in the final six games of the season. Chase Plummer (11.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) connects on just 37.4 percent from the field but is the only other player scoring in double figures as well as the team's top rebounder. The Retrievers are suffering from a negative scoring margin of more than eight points due to weak defensive efforts that have seen them allow 71.3 points per game on better than 45 percent shooting.
A 3-pointer at the buzzer from Nate Sikma allowed the Hawks to escape with an impressive 61-58 win against conference power Vermont in the regular-season finale. Hartford was outscored 28-10 in the paint but nailed 12 shots from beyond the arc to pull off the upset on the road.
Keeping teams below 60 points like they did against Vermont, has been a regular occurrence for Hartford. The Hawks are surrendering just 60.9 points per game and had eight games in conference play where they gave up fewer than 60 points. That included all three of its wins to close out the season. Still the Hawks were not a strong offensive team which proved troubling at times as they were second to last in the league in points (60.2 ppg) and last in rebounds (29.8 pg). Mark Nwakamma (14.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) was the only consistent offensive force for the team this season, although Yolonzo Moore (9.6 ppg) posted 16 points against Vermont after being out of double figures in eight of the previous nine games.
With how well the Hawks play on defense they should be able to zero in on Cook and keep him from carrying UMBC. As long as they can find enough ways to score themselves expect to see the Hawks in the next round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hartford 65, UMBC 59
03/09 10:46:10 ET