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No. 3 UMBC Women’s Basketball Takes on No. 6 Vermont in America East Championship Quarterfinals
BALTIMORE – UMBC women’s basketball takes its second-highest ranking ever for the America East Championship to Albany, N.Y. on Friday, March 8 when the third-seeded Retrievers take on No. 6 Vermont at 2 p.m. inside of the SEFCU Arena for quarterfinal action. All six games of the America East Tournament can be seen live on ESPN3 with Eric Frede and Leah Secondo calling the action.
A taping of the game can also be heard a 7 p.m. on Q1370/www.q1370.com, with Paul Mittermeier and Dan Levin calling all the action.
UMBC is playing in its 10th America East Conference Championships since joining the league in 2003-04. The Retrievers had never won an America East Tournament game before 2007, when they made a Cinderella run through the league to win their first-ever conference title and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Seventh-seeded UMBC became the first team in America East history to defeat the top three seeds in the tournament (No. 2 Stony Brook 67-64/Quarterfinals, No. 3 Vermont 67-56/Semifinals, No. 1 Hartford 48-46/Finals) and were the lowest seed ever to win the league championship. The 16th-seeded Retrievers then fell to top-seed Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The black and gold have reached the semifinals of the conference tournament in each of the last two seasons, breaking a three-year slump of quarterfinal exits for UMBC. Last season, the Retrievers again took advantage of their underdog status heading into the tournament as the No. 5-seed, sneaking past No. 4 New Hampshire, 59-57, with a pair of last second free throws and convincingly defeating the top-seeded Boston University Terriers, 77-61, to become just the second No.5-seed ever to make it to the America East Championship game. The Retrievers fell to Albany in their first finals appearance since 2007, 69-61.
Prior to 2007, UMBC had made just one other title game appearance, when first-year head coach Phil Stern led the Retrievers to the 2003 Northeast Conference finals in their last year in the league. UMBC was also seeded seventh that season and took down No. 2 Quinnipiac and No. 3 Monmouth before falling to regular-season champion St. Francis (Pa.) in the finals. Those wins were UMBC’s last conference tournament victories before 2007. UMBC was seeded 10th in its first two years in the America East and lost to seventh-seeded Northeastern both times. In 2006, the upstart Retrievers took the league by surprise and finished fifth in the conference but lost to fourth-seeded Binghamton, 72-66, in overtime in the quarterfinals. UMBC is 9-18 all-time in Division I tournament play dating to 1991 and 6-7 in America East Tournament action. Before 2003, the Retrievers’ only tournament victory was in 1994 as members of the Big South, when they were seeded second and defeated No. 7 Coastal Carolina before falling to No. 3 Radford in the semifinals. The No. 1 seed in 2011 is the Retrievers’ highest ever at the Division I level. UMBC had been seeded as high as second twice - in 1991 in the East Coast Conference and in 1994 in the Big South. Prior to this season, the Retrievers had not been seeded higher than fifth in the America East (2006, 2009). UMBC had never won a game at Hartford’s Chase Arena - regular-season or postseason - until defeating the Hawks, 53-48, on Feb. 20.
scouting the retrievers (10-19, 6-10 AE): Stern is in his 11th season at the helm of the Retrievers' program, after leading the black and gold to their second America East Championship game appearance last season. Following the graduation of 59.5 percent of the conference's highest scoring offense in 2011-12, UMBC (34 votes) was tabbed to finish sixth in the league behind Albany (61), Boston University (56), Hartford (54), New Hampshire (37) and Vermont (37). Despite being voted to finish sixth, the Retrievers closed out the regular season in a four-way tie (Vermont, New Hampshire and Stony Brook) for fourth place in the conference with a 6-10 league record - UMBC's lowest America East win total since 2008-09. The black and gold earned the third seed in the conference tournament - its second-highest seed ever - due to tie breakers, with UMBC having the best record against UVM, UNH and SBU and the ineligibility of Boston University for America East postseason play.
After winning four-of-five to start off the month of Feb., the Retrievers dropped three in a row to close out the regular season, including a 62-45 loss to Binghamton in the finale at the Events Center. The Retrievers shot at a .250 clip in the second half and 30.5 percent from the floor for the game - 7.1 percent from three-point land and 38.1 percent from the free throw line. Senior guard Kristin Coles led the way for the Retrievers with her second double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and pulling down 11 boards. Sophomore forward Ashley Lambert shot 5-for-9 from the field en route to her third-straight double-digit scoring game, matching a career-high with 12 points. Senior guard Raven Harris was held under 10 points for just the second time since conference play began, but finished with eight points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Harris piloted the Retrievers throughout the season, averaging a team-best 15.5 points per game during league play - ranking second in the conference - and tallying 12.3 points per game on the season. The senior did a little bit of everything, ranking atop of the America East in steals (3.5, 1st), assists (3.8, 3rd), free throw percentage (.699, 6th) and minutes played per game (34.0, 5th). Harris finished the regular season ranked eighth in Division I in steals per game (3.48) and became the Retrievers' single-season leader in takeaways (101). Classmate Brittany Crowell also made her way into the Retrievers' record books, taking the 10th spot all-time at UMBC in three-point field goals made (85). Crowell nailed 2.2 treys per game during the regular season - 2.6 of the UMBC's 4.9 three-point field goals per game during America East action - en route to averaging a career-best 11.4 points per game.
Coles and Lambert have stepped up their play since the second half of conference play, combining for 19.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and shooting 40.6 percent from the floor during the span. Each has moved back into the starting rotation for the Retrievers and is seeing significant minutes.
scouting the Catamounts (9-20, 6-10 AE): Vermont had a chance to lock up the third seed in the conference tournament with a victory in its season finale at Hartford, but the Catamounts fell for the third time in its last four games, dropping a 59-33 contest to the Hawks. UVM, who finished the regular season 9-20 (6-10 AE) ended up with the short stick in the four-way tie, ending up at the six seed.
The Catamounts scored 51.8 points per game on the season and does not have a player averaging in double-figures on the year. Senior center Lauren Buschmann led the squad with 8.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but upped her output to 9.8 points and 6.9 rebounds (eighth in the AEC) during conference play. Buschmann ranked fourth during America East action in field goal percentage, knocking down 47.2 percent of her shots. Sophomore forward Niki Taylor has contributed 9.6 points per game and 5.3 rebounds since conference play began, while sophomore guard Tierra Shumpert is adding 8.1 points and a team-best 2.9 assists.
inside the series: The Catamounts hold a 12-9 lead in the all-time series against the Retrievers.
-UMBC and Vermont face off against each other during America East Championship action for just the second time in the history of the tournament, with the Retriever claiming the 67-56 victory as the seventh-seed on their way to their first America East title in 2007.
-The Retrievers have won five of the last six meetings between the two schools, but the two teams split during the 2012-13 regular season, each winning on their home floor.
-In the Jan. 12 matchup at Patrick Gym, UMBC played without senior guard Kristin Coles and relied heavily on senior guard Raven Harris, who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals, but was unable to get off the game-tying shot as time expired.
-In game two against the Catamounts, Coles tabbed her first double-double of the season, earning all 12 of her points from the free throw line. Harris again came up big, scoring 21 points against the UVM, while Crowell knocked down 4-of-9 from beyond the arc for 16 points.
-In two games against Vermont this season, Harris averaged 21.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 4.0 steals per game.
NEXT ROUND: The winner of No. 3 UMBC vs. No. 6 Vermont will face the winner of No. 2 Hartford and No. 7 Binghamton on Sunday at 11:02 a.m. at SEFCU Arena.