Burlington, Vt. – The defending America East champion and third-seeded UMBC Retrievers (21-12) face the same challenge they did a season ago as they will take on the top-seeded and host Vermont Catamounts (26-6) in the championship game of the America East Conference Tournament.
The teams will reprise last season's thriller before a national television (ESPN2) and partisan crowd at Patrick Gymnasium. Tip-off time is slated for 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 16.
Retriever Review: UMBC enters the game riding a three-game winning streak, including a pair of home victories over No. 6 UAlbany (62-54) and No. 4 Hartford (90-85, 2ot) in the tournament.
After allowing a season-high 85 points to Hartford, UMBC fell behind Vermont (63.1) on defense in America East, now allowing 64.0 points per game (25th nationally). They do lead AE in turnover margin (3.2, 30th nationally), and steals per game (7.9, 30th). Their 262 steals are the 20th-most in the nation. The school record is 269- set in 36 games last season.
The win over Hartford moved the 2018-19 squad into a tie for third place on UMBC's all-time list for wins in a season (21). Coach Odom has led three of the top four win-producing teams in school history. This year marks the first time in school history that a Retriever basketball program has produced three consecutive 20-win seasons.
UMBC has won the league title from the No. 1 slot (2008) and the No. 2 position (2018). The Retrievers are now 14-13 in the tournament. Today marks their fourth title game appearance and they are 2-1 in the previous three.
Graduate student forward Joe Sherburne (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.), who, earlier in the week was named CoSIDA Academic All-America Team Member of the Year, leads the Retrievers with 14.1 points per game. Junior guard K.J. Jackson checks in at 12.8 points per game, but leads UMBC in AE Tournament play at 16.0 points per contest.
A Glance at the Catamounts: Top-seeded Vermont (26-6) has won five straight and 11 of 12, with the lone loss in that span occurring at UMBC on Feb. 21. The Catamounts have cruised in tournament play, defeating No. 8 Maine, 73-57, and No. 7 Binghamton, 84-51 in Patrick Gym.
Vermont is ranked 1, 2 or 3 in all America East statistical categories and just took the lead over UMBC in scoring defense (63.1).
America East Player of the year, junior forward Anthony Lamb leads the conference in scoring (21.1) and is second in rebounding (7.8). Senior guard Ernie Duncan, also a First Team selection, is America East's most efficient 3-point shooter at 42.9 percent.
To add to their opponents' miseries, sophomore guard Stef Smith, buried 8 of 10 treys and led all scorers with 28 points in the rout of Binghamton.
Series Record/Last Meetings: Vermont had won 23 consecutive games in the series, dating back to UMBC's first championship run in 2008, until UMBC pulled off the 65-62 upset in the 2018 title game.
The Retrievers have extended the overall winning streak to three and skein at Patrick Gymnasium to a pair with wins in Burlington (74-61) and Baltimore (65-56) this season. The latter victory snapped the Catamounts' 24-game road AE winning streak.
Overall, UVM leads the all-time series, 32-7, and 15-3 in games played in Burlington.
The two teams have met seven previous times in the tournament, with Vermont capturing five of seven. UMBC's two wins have occurred in the championship seasons of 2008 (semis) and 2018.