ALBANY-Defending America East champion Vermont broke a late 62-all tie with a critical 14-2 run and went on to defeat a gritty UMBC squad, 85-72, in the league semifinals held at SEFCU Arena.
UMBC senior guard Ryan Cook (Laurel, Md./Pallotti) scored a game-best 20 points in his final game. Classmates Brian Neller (Red Bank, N.J./Christian Bros. Acad) and Adrian Satchell (Windsor, Conn./Windsor) also played key roles in the contest, as Neller scored 11 points and Satchell led UMBC with eight rebounds.
The Retrievers led, 40-37 at the half and opened the second stanza on a 10-5 run, capped by a 3-point field goal by Neller which gave the sixth-seeded Retrievers a 50-42 advantage with 15:59 remaining.
After a media timeout, Vermont wing Candon Rusin turned the game around. He hit one trey, then after a UMBC missed attempt, buried a right-side trey and drew a foul, scoring seven points in a span of 37 seconds. Vermont capped the 10-0 run with a field goal and free throw by Luke Apfeld, taking a 51-50 lead with 14:11 remaining.
The second-seeded Catamounts (21-10) would build a 60-55 advantage, but the Retrievers responded and tied the game at 62-all with a 7-2 surge, capped by Neller's 91st and final three-point field goal of the season with 7:48 remaining.
UMBC defended well on Vermont's ensuing possession, but Catamount All-Conference forward Brian Voelkel, known more for his play-making and rebounding, banked in a nine-footer in the lane with five seconds left on the shot clock.
That field goal jump-started a 14-2 Vermont run over the next four minutes which put the favorites in control. UMBC committed three critical turnovers during the game's critical run.
The Retrievers (8-23) sizzled from the floor in the first half, hitting 16 of 29 shots from the floor, but struggled in the final 20 minutes, converting only 7-of-22 attempts to finish at 45.1 percent (23-of-51) for the game.The Catamounts hit 52.8% (28-of-53) for the contest.
Both teams excelled at the free throw line and from beyond the arc. UMBC converted 14-of-16 free throws, but Vermont sunk eight more attempts, converting on 22-of-26 and 16-of-18 in the final 20 minutes.
The Retrievers tied a season-high with 12 treys, hitting12 of 22, while Vermont was 7-of-14.
Vermont used its superior size to its advantage, outscoring the Retrievers, 40-12, in the paint.
The Retrievers got out of the gates quickly, grabbing an 11-4 lead at the 16:01 mark of the first half. With Cook hitting his first six shots from the floor, the Retrievers extended the advantage to 23-15 on sophomore guard Joey Getz' (Philadelphia, Pa./Archbishop Wood) first of two treys in the opening stanza at the midpoint of the half. But the Catamounts would rally, sparked by freshman post Ethan O'Day. He scored 12 first half points as Vermont outscored UMBC, 9-0, and took its first lead of the game on a Trey Blue 3-point field goal at the 7:33 mark.
But the Retrievers continued to knock down treys, burying 8-of-14 for the half and took a 40-37 advantage at the break after junior guard Quentin Jones (Ellicott City ,Md./Mount St. Joseph) hit from the left corner with 42 seconds to play in the half.
UMBC dropped the 6-5 during the season while leading at halftime.
Getz and junior forward Chase Plummer (Plainfield, N.J./St .Patrick) added 13 points apiece for UMBC.
Rusin hit 5-of-7 shots from behind the arc and scored 18 points in 24 minutes off the bench for the Catamounts. O'Day and Apfeld scored 16 each.
Cook finished the season with 478 points, the ninth-most in school history .Neller, who set the UMBC single-season record for treys, completed his four-year run with 261 three-point field goals, second-most in school history.