Updated: March 03, 2012 12:03 pm (ET)
by America East Communications
West Hartford, Conn. -- Top-seeded Boston U. and fifth-seeded UMBC advanced to the 2012 America East Basketball Championship semifinals with quarterfinal victories Friday afternoon at Chase Family Arena. The Terriers and Retrievers will meet in a semifinal on Sunday at 11 a.m. for chance to advance to the title game the following Saturday, March 10.
Top-seeded Boston University (23-7, 15-1 AE) got a scare from eighth-seeded Maine (8-23, 4-12 AE) in Friday's first semifinal, but pulled out the 52-43 win necessary to move on to Sunday's semifinals. America East Player of the Year Chantell Alford, a junior guard, scored a game-high 18 points, including an 8-for-8 effort from the charity stripe.
"I think Maine played real tough and physical with us, turning around after last night’s game. Really glad that we were able to come back and fight through some adversity and some bad shooting. Credit our players and they made great plays at the end and I’m real happy for them,” said Terrier head coach Kelly Greenberg, whose teams have advanced to the semifinals seven of her eight tournament appearances.
Boston U. led 23-16 at halftime, but then Maine upped the offensive output with 16 points in the first four minutes of the second half, fueled by freshman guard Courtney Anderson. Anderson, who only scored 2 points in the first half, finished with a team-high 13.
Anderson tied the game at 33-33 at the 12:31 mark of the second half. Boston U. junior Mo Moran hit two free-throws to take the Terrier lead back at 12:04. Despite shooting just 25 percent in the second half, the Terriers' defense buckled down to hold Maine to 10 points over the final twelve minutes.
“We always pride ourselves on our defense," said Boston U. senior guard Alex Young who finished with 11 points and two assists. "When we’re not hitting shots our defense is always something you can control and rebound. We took our time, kept our focus and bounced back on the offensive end eventually.”
Junior guard Mo Moran joined Young and Alford in double-digit scoring with 12 points. Sophomore forward Rashidat Agboola pulled down 11 boards to lead all players.
Maine won the inside battle, scoring 24 points in the paint to Boston U.'s 12. The Black Bears also outshot the Terriers, 31.5 percent to 26.5 percent. Boston U. took advantage of their free-throw shooting, going 21-of-25, including 12-of-15 in the second half.
No. 5 UMBC (16-14, 9-7 AE) and No. 4 New Hampshire (16-13, 9-7 AE) played an exciting back-and-forth contest in the second quarterfinal of the afternoon session with the Retrievers prevailing 59-57 on two free throws by UMBC senior Michelle Kurowski with 1.3 seconds left on the clock. Sunday's semifinal will be the Retrievers' second straight appearance in the round of four teams.
Kurowski finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and three assists, and junior guard Kristin Coles finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists while shooting 6-of-10 from the field. First-team all-conference choice Erin Brown also tallied 15 points for the Retrievers.
New Hampshire junior Morgan Frame, a second-team all-conference pick netted a game-high 21 points to lead the Wildcats.
It was a game of runs and momentum changes as the game featured 10 lead changes and four ties. UMBC's eight-point lead with 10:07 left was the largest lead of the game, but New Hampshire went on a 12-6 run over the next 6:36 to tie the game 53-all after three consecutive field goals from senior Denise Beliveau, junior Morgan Frame and sophomore Kelsey Hogan.
The teams traded free throws the rest of the way, with the fourth tie of the afternoon coming at 57-57 with 41 seconds left after Rookie of the Year Lauren Chase hit a running layup. UNH had a chance to take the lead but turned the ball over on its offensive possession with 25 seconds on the clock. A foul on the other end of the court put Kurowski, the top free-throw shooter in the conference, on the line for two with under two seconds left. Missing just 10 foul shots in 92 attempts all year, the all-conference senior nailed both.
“When I went up there didn’t think about time or score just make these like I do at practice or any other time,” said Kurowski on the game-winning free throws.
UMBC tipped the UNH in-bounds play to prevent the Wildcats from having one last chance at the basket.
Boston U. swept the two regular season meetings with UMBC and has won both previous meetings in America East Championship play. Sunday's semifinal will be available live exclusively on ESPN3.
“Both of our games came down to the final possessions against Boston during the year," said UMBC head coach Phil Stern on Sunday's semifinal opponent. "Great team, well-coached; Kelly does a great job with them. Alford is the two-time player of the year and Mo Moran is the key, she makes them go – you have to shut her down and limit what she does."
Quarterfinals three and four continue Friday night at University of Hartford's Chase Family Arena. Visit Championship Central for the full schedule and for all the live coverage links.