Vestal, N.Y.-One day after shocking second-seeded Stony Brook in the quarterfinals for the program's first-ever win in the America East Tournament, the seventh-seeded UMBC women's basketball team (15-16) pulled off another upset in the semifinals, defeating No. 3 Vermont, 67-56, Saturday evening at the Binghamton University Events Center.
The Retrievers advance to the conference finals and will take on the winner of the second semifinal matchup between No. 1 Hartford and No. 4 Binghamton on Sunday at 5 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN Full Court and can be viewed for free at www.americaeast.com.
The lead changed hands eight times in the first half, but UMBC held a 24-17 advantage with 3:50 remaining before 11 straight points by America East Rookie of the Year Courtnay Pilypaitis, including three consecutive three-pointers and a jumper at the buzzer put the Catamounts on top, 28-27, at halftime.
The Retrievers shot 45.8 percent from the floor, including 71.4 percent (5-for-7) from three-point range, while holding Vermont to just 35.5 percent from the field and 23.1 percent (3-for-13) from long distance in the half. Pilypaitis led all scorers with 12 points in the first 20 minutes.
The Catamounts held a 21-12 advantage on rebounds with eight coming on the offensive glass. Amy Rosenkrantz pulled down a game-high eight boards in the period.
Junior forward Amanda Robinson connected on a jumper at the 15:06 mark of the second half to give the Retrievers a two-point lead, 34-32, which they never relinquished. Vermont pulled to within three with 9:46 remaining, but Robinson led an 11-3 UMBC run with eight points of her own to give the Retrievers a game-high 11-point advantage, 53-42, with 5:40 to go.
The Catamounts cut their deficit to seven points on five different occasions in the final three and a half minutes, but UMBC hit 12 of 16 free throws down the stretch to seal the 67-56 victory and the trip to the finals.
"Our players wanted to win very badly tonight," head coach Phil Stern said. "We played much better in the second half. We had the will to win and that carried us through."
Robinson scored a game-high 21 points on 9-for-18 shooting, including 2-for-3 from three-point range and grabbed eight rebounds. Senior forward Sharri Rohde and senior point guard Brittnie Hughes added 12 points and four assists apiece, while Rohde also posted nine rebounds.
Seven of eight Retrievers drilled at least one three-pointer in the game, as UMBC shot 56.3 percent (9-for-16) from long distance.
Pilypaitis led the Catamounts with 19 points, while freshman May Kotsopoulos added 10. Rosenkrantz posted a game-best 11 rebounds and Andrea Cihal pulled down 10. Vermont held a 40-36 rebound advantage, but UMBC out-rebounded the Catamounts, 24-19, in the second half.
The Retrievers advance to the finals of a conference championship for the first time since the 2003 Northeast Conference Tournament in Stern's first season at the helm and UMBC's last in the NEC. Also the seventh seed that season, the Retrievers upset No. 2 Quinnipiac and No. 3 Monmouth in the first two rounds before falling to regular-season champion St. Francis (Pa.) in the finals. UMBC has never advanced to the Division-I NCAA Tournament.