UMBC (8-22) vs. Vermont (20-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, March 10, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: SEFCU Arena (4,538) -- Albany, New York. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UMBC 6-8, Vermont 10-4. Away Record: UMBC 1-14, Vermont 9-6. Neutral Record: UMBC 2-0, Vermont 2-0. Conference Record: UMBC 5-11, Vermont 11-5. Series Record: Vermont, 20-4.
GAMES NOTES: The No. 2 seed Vermont Catamounts will clash with the No. 6 seed UMBC Retrievers in the semifinals of the America East Conference Tournament at SEFCU Arena.
UMBC pulled of a 69-62 upset of the No 3 seed Hartford Hawks in the first round of the Tournament on Saturday. The win was stunning considering UIMBC won just six games during the regular season. UMBC still has a long way ahead if it hopes to grab its second conference title and first since 2008.
Vermont's 61-42 defeat of No. 7 seed New Hampshire in the first round was much less surprising. The Catamounts have won three of their last four games including the regular season and are now just a win away from a 20-victory season. If they are able to accomplish the feat it would mark their fifth- straight season of at least 20 wins.
During the regular season Vermont earned a sweep of the Retrievers with an average winning margin of 14 points. The Catamounts have won 11-straight against the Retrievers and own a 20-4 edge in the all-time series.
Hot shooting in the second half powered UMBC to its upset of Hartford. The Retrievers connected on 78.9 percent of their field goal attempts in the final 20 minutes while Ryan Cook (24 points) and Brian Neller (20 points) put on scoring clinics.
Cooke (15.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg) has been scoring well all season for the Retrievers and is also the only player on the team registering more than 30 minutes per game. The 6-foot-2 guard has scored in double figures in six-straight games but the 24 points on Saturday tied a season-high. Chase Plummer (11.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is the only other player in double figures though Neller (9.8 ppg) is a dangerous shooter from beyond the arc when he gets in a rhythm. That was the case on Saturday when he dropped in six 3-pointers. As a team UMBC is scoring a meager 63.1 points per game while allowing its foes to shoot better than 45 percent from the field.
Another strong showing on the defensive end carried Vermont over New Hampshire. The Catamounts held the Wildcats to just 14 field goals on 32.6 percent shooting in the contest. The Catamounts didn't exactly impress on the offensive end themselves, with Candon Rusin netting 14 points off the bench as the top scorer.
Defense has been the calling card for Vermont all season. The Catamounts are holding teams to just 59 points per game on just over 40 percent shooting. Their opponent scoring average is the 21st best mark in the nation. Vermont has had similar success on the offensive floor as compared to the Retrievers as it nets 63.3 points per game while shooting a shade under 44 percent from the field. Clancy Rugg (11.5 ppg) leads a trio of double figure scorers for the Catamounts who prefer balance to large individual scoring efforts. Luke Apfeld (10.8 ppg) and Sandro Carissimo (10.0 ppg) can also score while Brian Voelkel (6.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 4.8 apg) has been putting up numbers across the board.
Vermont dominated against UMBC in the regular season. That won't change this time around as the Catamounts should suffocate the Retrievers' scorers and coast into the final.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vermont 64, UMBC 50
03/10 10:33:02 ET