Vermont, Hartford Punch Tickets to Men's Hoops Semifinals With Wins Saturday
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- An upset and nearly another was the story of the second quarterfinal session of the America East Men's Basketball Championship presented by Newman's Own as second-seeded Vermont survived a scare from seventh-seeded Maine and sixth-seeded Hartford knocked off third seeded Boston University Saturday at Hartford's Chase Family Arena. The Catamounts and Hawks will meet for a bid to the conference championship game in the second men's semifinal Sunday at 7:15 p.m.
In the first game of the night, Vermont (21-11) used a late 14-2 second-half run to turn a six-point deficit into a six-point advantage and held on for a 50-40 win over Maine (12-17). The Catamounts' semifinal appearance will be their ninth in the last 11 years.
The Catamounts struggled to find their groove offensively and Maine (12-17) took advantage, jumping out to a seven point lead. Justin Edwards, an America East All-Rookie choice, converted a three-point play with 11:09 left to give the Black Bears a 13-6 edge. The Black Bears continued to give the Catamounts trouble for the remainder of the half, forcing them into 24 percent shooting for the frame, and took a 22-14 lead into the half.
Maine, which has not won a tournament game since 2005, held its lead through the midway point of the second half as Andrew Rogers' layup with 13:15 left gave the Black Bears a 30-24 advantage. But the Catamounts, who have won 12 of their last 13 games, found their groove offensively in the nick of time by going on their 14-2 run to open a 38-32 lead with 4:44 left. Matt Glass, a first-team all-conference choice, hit a pair of threes in the stretch and finished with a game-best 16 points.
The Black Bears would get within one with 4:08 left on a pair of Mike Allison free throws but UVM scored 12 of the game's final 15 points to seal John Becker's first tournament win as bead coach. Luke Apfeld joined Glass in double figures with 12 points and also had seven rebounds. Alasdair Fraser had 10 points for the Black Bears, who were playing without leading scorer Gerald McLemore (flu).
“This is a game we would have lost earlier in the season," said Becker. "We’ve talked about this a lot recently, keeping our composure and to continue to defend and rebound and then offensively we would find ourselves eventually on the offensive end thought I guys did a tremendous job sticking with it, through adversity.
In the nightcap, Hartford (9-21) got a combined 36 points and 24 rebounds from its three freshmen starters, who led the Hawks to a 53-49 win over defending champion Boston U. The win sends to the Hawks to the semifinals for the second straight year and third time since 2008.
The Hawks, which became the fifth straight No. 6 seed and eighth in the last nine years to win a quarterfinal game, jumped out to an early 12-6 lead as Andres Torres hit a three-pointer with 13:02 left. Boston U. countered with teh game's next five points and it see sawed back and forth until the Terriers' scored nine of the half's last 12 points and took a 27-21 advantage into the locker room.
Hartford closed the gap within the first three minutes of the second half, using an 11-4 run to take a 32-31 lead with 17:24 left. Nwakamma, who recorded his first career double-double in the game (13 points, 16 rebounds) scored six points in the stretch. The Terriers, who end their season 16-16, regained their lead and pushed it to five (43-38) with 6:14 left on America East Player of the Year Darryl Partin's jumper. But, the Hawks fought back and got two clutch three-pointers from its other all-rookie choice, Nate Sikma, who finished with 16 points and seven boards.
Nwakamma provided the play of the game though, converting a three-point play with 1:41 left to give Hartford a 50-49 lead, which they would not relinquish. The Terriers had four possessions to save their season but missed two threes and committed two turnovers as Hartford held on for the win. Partin led Boston U. with 17 points. D.J. Irving, a second-team all-league choice added 12 and five assists.
"The game, it was not pretty, it was a defensive battle," said Hartford head coach John Gallagher. "It was possession by possession game and we were fortunate to make a few plays at the end of that game.”